Quantum Mechanics, Plato’s Cave and the Blind Piranha

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Quantum Mechanics, Plato’s Cave and the Blind Piranha

John Horgan

Quote:Richard Feynman advised us to accept that nature makes no sense. “Do not keep saying to yourself… ‘But how can [nature] be like that?’” Feynman warns in The Character of Physical Law, “because you will get down the drain, into a blind alley from which nobody has yet escaped. Nobody knows how it can be like that.”

Quote:Another deep-thinking physicist, John Bell, deplored this situation. In his 1987 essay collection Speakable and Unspeakable in Quantum Mechanics, Bell chides physicists who apply quantum theory while blithely disregarding its “fundamental obscurity”; he calls them “sleepwalkers.” But Bell acknowledges that efforts to make sense of, or “interpret,” quantum mechanics have failed. He likens interpretations such as the many-world hypothesis and pilot-wave theory to “literary fiction.”

Today, there are more interpretations than ever, but they deepen rather than dispelling the weirdness at the heart of things. The more I dwell on puzzles such as superposition, entanglement and the measurement problem, the more I identify with the piranha. I’m blindly thrashing about for insights, epiphanies, revelations. Every now and then I think I’ve grasped some slippery truth, but my satisfaction is always fleeting. Sooner or later, I end up bouncing off an invisible barrier. I don’t really know what’s going on. I’m in the dark.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell



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