If anyone is the Kissinger of quantum physics, striving to forge peace in the century-old dispute over the meaning of the quantum, it is Howard Wiseman. A theoretical physicist at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia, Wiseman thinks the debate hasn’t been resolved because it can’t be, given our present state of knowledge. Only when physicists develop a unified theory will they grasp where quantum physics stands in the grand scheme of things. In the meantime, the antagonists should call a truce by acknowledging that they’re making equally defensible assumptions. They should stop complaining the other side is just being thick-headed.

 

 

I interviewed Wiseman in October at the Emergent Quantum Mechanics conference in Vienna. In this video, he boils the debate down to a schism between realists and operationalists, who clash not just on quantum theory but on the goals of science. (Each of those groups, in turn, is a fractious bunch.) Realists think quantum physics is nonlocal; operationalists don’t. But they’re reading different meanings into the word “nonlocal.”

 

Wiseman himself has worked on everything from atom lasers to spooky action at a distance involving a single particle, as opposed to the pairs and trios that usually figure in quantum experiments. The solo-particle version hews closely to Einstein’s original thinking on the phenomenon, as I discuss in Chapter 3 of my book and in this animation. Wiseman has also sought (in this paper and that) to set the historical record straight about the Einstein-Bohr debate and has put forward a new interpretation of quantum mechanics that seeks to combine the best features of existing approaches.

 

Share your wisdom

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.