What is *reality*?

Here is a copy of our post in response to a New Scientist article Reality: Is matter real? byJan Westerhoff

Venture to where the wild things are?

Indeed the behaviour of particles is peculiar. They behave as waves or points, depending on how one interrogates them. The article follows that path and then shows how usual explanations about contextual measurement lead to absurdities: the role of the conscious observer in collapsing quantum indeterminacy is an unsatisfactory model.

The article then relentless pursues a reductive explanation for physics, and shows that pure mathematics would be the underlying reality if that path is taken. (I am not sure that I followed or agreed with all the logic though). Hence likewise back to mental entities and an observer.

I loved these circular concepts, for their philosophical wrangling and the stark conclusion that philosophy does not give an answer either way. However, perhaps those are not the only two options? Could there be others? There was one such candidate, which I did not miss. This is the usual escape hatch by which physics evades the effort of thinking about meaning, namely the many worlds theory. What a relief not to have that given an airing!

There may be other candidates, more deserving of consideration. The article might have gone on to discuss locality and local realism, hence also entanglement, and how solutions might emerge from that direction.

In particular, a logical case may be made that weird interpretations result, not as the article implies from the choice of solution path taken, but because there is something very broken with one of the fundamental tacit premises.

We note that the entire weight of the ontology of QM’s physics rests on a zero-dimensional point. It is thus hardly surprising that QM gives us weird explanations, singularities, and circular reasoning. What is even more surprising is the persistent adherence to the ontology, instead of a serious questioning of whether such premises might be wrong. But if not a point, then what? And don’t the Bell-type inequalities preclude anything but a 0-D point at the root of all matter?

They would seem to, though there is reason to believe that those inequalities might be based on circular reasoning of their own. They start by implicitly assuming a 0-D point structure and then conclude that matter can have no internal structure. Duh! Is that not circular?

If so then that opens the possibilities for other concepts for matter. String theory being one, though it yields only mathematical solutions rather than physical interpretations and therefore seems more in the reductionist line of thinking. But there are other non-local hidden variable solutions, and some of these already provide physically natural explanations, devoid of metaphysical weirdness, for all the paradoxes here mentioned and more besides: Airy patterns, wave-particle duality, entanglement interferometers, among others.

Expectedly, there is cost, which is that the 0-D point construct would have to be abandoned. And locality too. Some would say these are very light costs, to be gaining so much more explanatory power than extant theories.

My point is therefore that the article only explores two of the possible solutions to the reality question, and finds answers in neither of them. My criticism then is that the article stays too close to the campfire of the safe orthodoxy, which we already knew is beyond weird. What will physics have? Stay with the orthodoxy and accept the weirdness and epistemic stasis? Or venture to where the wild things are, and explore the raw new ideas?

For example, have a look at the FQXi essays on ‘Which of Our Basic Physical Assumptions Are Wrong?’ http://fqxi.org/community/forum/category/31418

Our own work in the wild side is readily available at http://vixra.org/


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