This ‘zero-worlds’ theory might just be crazy enough to be true

Hans Busstra

Hans Busstra

Quote:Physicist Markus Müller developed a mathematical probability theory that can solve some fundamental puzzles of physics better than current theories. Journalist Hans Busstra interviewed Müller on his so-called ‘zero-worlds’ theory, which was not meant as a proof of an idealistic worldview, but does ‘give you idealism for free.’

Quote:Just like all of us mortals, physicists are somehow stuck in Plato’s cave, never being able to see the actual flames outside the cave that cast shadows on the walls inside. At the end of the day physics cannot answer metaphysical questions for us about what matter is, or if it exists independent of our observation. When I first realized this, I found it deeply unsettling, but thought to myself: at least physics can give us the laws of nature that govern the shadows in the cave, the laws governing what we call matter.

But it only took me a surface reading of modern physics to realize that things are a bit more complicated still. For instance, there is a pretty good chance that a modern physicist sitting beside you in Plato’s cave could say something like: ‘let go of the idea of one outside of the cave, there is an infinitely large amount of different ‘outsides’ that exist simultaneously, you only get to see one of them.’ Or, put differently: ‘let go of the idea that there are deterministic laws governing the flames and shadows, there are only probabilities.’ But recently I sat down with a physicist that even takes things a step further, and says: ‘what if there is no outside of the cave at all?’

Markus Müller PhD, who is Group Leader at the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information in Vienna, Austria and visiting fellow at the prestigious Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Canada, came up with a probability theory that can make accurate mathematical predictions about the world we see without the notion that an outside world actually exists. With a smile on his face Müller calls it a “zero-worlds” theory.

Müller’s ideas, based on his work in quantum information theory, are hard to grasp because they are about as counter intuitive as it gets. But to solve some of the fundamental questions of modern physics, they might be a hint to the right direction. To quote Niels Bohr, maybe Müller’s ideas are “crazy enough to be true.”

'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

- Bertrand Russell