Could classical theory be just as weird as quantum theory?

riNews, Post Materialist Science, Quantum Physics5 Comments

Quantum mechanics is often described as “weird” and “strange” because it abandons many of the intuitive traits of classical physics. For example, the ideas that the world is objective, is deterministic, and exists independent of measurement are basic features of classical theory, but do not always hold up in quantum theory. But what if it turns out that these intuitive ideas are not true features of classical physics, either? Would classical theory be just as weird as quantum theory?

In a new study published in Physical Review Letters, physicists Radu Ionicioiu, et al., have shown that the three apparently reasonable classical assumptions mentioned above—objectivity, determinism, and independence—are mutually incompatible with any theory, not only with . The scientists show that, while any two of the three assumptions are compatible, all three are not. All told, our seemingly reasonable classical assumptions may not be so reasonable after all.

“Sometimes classical ideas may seem ‘natural’ and ‘logical’ simply because we do not test them too strongly,” coauthor Daniel Terno at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, told “Quantum mechanics may be weird, but our classical illusions may be weird too—or simply impossible to maintain, no matter how the world really operates.”

The findings could have widespread implications. For many decades, physicists have assumed that our everyday classical ideas are consistent with each other, and have used them to investigate the tensions between the classical and quantum world views. Hidden variable theories, for example, attempt to complete or improve quantum mechanics by reproducing the results of  while incorporating these classical intuitions. If the new findings are correct, then they will demand that physicists question the basic tenets not only of quantum theory, but of classical theory, as well.

“Our take from this project [a warning: not a theorem, but an opinion] is that because the classical intuitions may be as weird as the quantum predictions, the entire motivation of the hidden variable program to explain quantum mechanics is somewhat pointless,” Terno said. “There is no reason to exchange one type of weirdness for another, or to accept some and try to explain away the rest.”

The uncovered incompatibility of the three assumptions centers on the quantum phenomenon of wave-particle duality. In their study, the physicists analyzed a version of the delayed-choice experiment, which demonstrates wave-particle duality with an interferometer. In this experiment, a photon behaves as a particle when the interferometer is open and as a wave when it is closed.

The experiment shows that, at any moment in time, a photon cannot be considered as either just a particle or just a wave, depending on the experimental set-up, but instead it has both properties. The experiment builds on the authors’ previous work, in which they show how to simplify the demonstration of wave-particle duality.

In the new work, the researchers questioned the usual assumption that classical ideas, even if incompatible with quantum mechanics, are consistent. Here, objectivity is defined as a photon being either a particle or a wave, but not both. Determinism means that the outcome (whether the photon is a particle or a wave) can be determined if all information about the scenario, including any hidden variables, is known. Independence means that the outcome does not depend on the specific experimental setting.

As the physicists explain, because the photon demonstrates both particle and wave behavior in the two different experimental setups, then trying to satisfy all three requirements makes it impossible to have any experimental result at all. As long as different experimental setups yield different types of behavior, then the three intuitive ideas are incompatible, no matter what kind of theory is used. Terno explains this idea using an analogy with an overly demanding client:

“Our result was built similarly to what an annoying client wants from a travel agent: ‘I should have this and that, and here and there, but not such and such, and definitely not this way…,’ and at the end, no itinerary can satisfy all of the client’s constraints. Something has to give.

“When one imagines a hidden variable theory that describes the experiments we consider, it has only so much freedom (seven parameters, to be exact). Putting constraints that are mathematical expressions of our three intuitive requirements reduces the freedom until nothing is left.”

Because any two of the three ideas are mutually compatible, the physicists suggest that it seems most natural to drop the objectivity assumption, while keeping determinism and independence. This choice requires that wave-particle duality be accepted, regardless of its counterintuitive nature. However, knowing for sure will be a subject of future research.

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5 Comments on “Could classical theory be just as weird as quantum theory?”

  1. saul

    Your eyes are two slits gathering light/information about a very specific place & time, w/ the help your other senses your mind is easily convinced of the REALITY of the XPerience_YOU ARE WHERE U ARE BY NO DECISION OF YOUR OWN_AS FAR AS YOU KNOW_the consistent persistence of XP quickly beCUMZ undeniable_so better ways to hide REALITY must be devised to maintain the illusion_MATTERmatters_it just doesn’t lasT/:

  2. Liz Graham

    Saul, the eyes are two slits emitting light that reflects off of the information it contacts outside your body, so that you mind and check and see if any of the current running maps can apply. This is similar to the torus of the heart that leaves the body to gather intutive information from the environment to return it to the heart so it can understand something. Just as our thoughts are formed and projected into the world to try and find a match or create our reality. I agree with you that there is illusion but it isn’t malicious in nature, it is simply a timing thing. We human beings are multidimensional and therefore still searchg for the basis or root of consciousness which seems to be everywhere and nowhere. We make mental/intellectual decisions all the time but that doesn’t mean that those conditions “exist” outside of our construction.

  3. Ned Lips

    It seems to me that at the moment of the speed of light, the status a photon is invariably in, all matter, such as there may be matter at all, becomes pure energy, exhibiting both physical/particulate and energy/wave characteristics simultaneously. That is a somewhat unique situation, it seems to me.
    Also, we wrestle with the physical, which at the quantum level is nearly 100% energy all the time, but at the macro level is real and solid and observable. We see what humans see. We feel what humans feel. We sense what humans sense, all at the macro level. At that level there are rules that can be fairly comfortably addressed. I pitcher can throw a strike because at the macro level physics is predictable. The 3 traits of classical physics applies.
    How they coalesce from the quantum level to the macro is fascinating, but it seems to me that there are two sets of rules for that which we observe and that which composes it.

  4. Quantum Relativity Theory

    There is a theory just beginning peer review that derives the observations of relativity and quantum mechanics with a new perspective. QRT starts with a single physical entity, a fixed frame of reference, a single force, and a stable structure.

    From there, one can derive the charge, energy and radius of the proton, neutron and electron as the only stable solutions to the single initial condition. The derivation continues where all four forces fall out as errors in our perception of inertial motion (similar to relativity). The uncertainty of position and particle – wave duality also become intuitively obvious. The implications, if they withstand the scientific process are earth shaking.

    If interested send me an email and I will send you a copy once it passes its first independent peer review. Odds are it will fall part under scrutiny. I could not break it in five years of trying. The more I tried to more evidence piled up supporting the hypothesis. Let me know.


  5. Sean

    An apple has an inside and an outside. So does reality. We exist within a 4 dimensional Space-Time environment. We can look across the dimensions of space, but we can not look across the dimension of time. Thus, the inside is confined to the present time. The outside, on the other hand, extends across all time other than the present.

    On the inside, an event occurs at a single point in time, at a single point in space. However, on the outside, things are different. Here an event is determined via circumstances extending across both space and time.Thus it becomes a 4 dimensional event, call it an event4D.

    If the 2 slit experiment is set up to create wave behavior, and it is run for say 5 minutes, from the outside it
    is seen as a single 5 minute event4D. The entire corkscrew-like shaped path, leading from source to destination of each and every spinning photon, is taken into account. This creates an interference pattern at the destination wall, all due to the corkscrew like shaped paths, or wave-like shaped paths, crossing each others paths in the open but limited areas which increase and decrease due to the wave-like shapes of these paths.

    However, if you place detectors at the two slits, or perhaps just in front of the screen, each detection is an event in itself. Thus real-time events have been inserted into the experiment, thus the experiment has been broken down into real-time events, thus it can no longer be governed from the outside as a single event, thus an interference pattern can no longer occur.

    Sound too simple ? Well here is another example of simple thought.

    A simple analysis of “motion” can lead you to independently discovering Special Relativity and deriving all of its equations. No education in physics is required to accomplish this. See it yourself at 9 short videos located at .

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