When quantum theory was discovered a hundred years ago, the physicists of the world were confronted with a terrible realisation. As stated by DeWitt, quoted on the home page, they were no longer able to define reality. Quantum theory defines exactly what reality is made of at the fundamental level, but it seems to make no sense. As the great physicist, bongo drummer, safe-cracking hobbyist and all-round genius Richard Feynman famously wrote:
Do not keep saying to yourself, if you can possibly avoid it, “But how can it be like that?” 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. (1965)
The meaning of what is often called humanity’s greatest discovery has been impossible to divine.
The Measurement Problem
The incomprehensible discovery Feynman despairs at is this. The quantum world changes state when it is observed. The multiple possibilities of the quantum world collapse to a specific actuality. So this is the very process that determines what is real. But the whole thing makes no sense. How can just passively looking at a physical object – measuring the state it is in – make any difference to the state it is in? This is the famous ‘measurement problem‘.
The breakthrough concept, presented in the latest interpretations of quantum theory, is a simple but radical explanation. The world we have discovered with quantum theory is a completely different type of world to the ordinary world we take for granted. But no one has been able to say exactly what this is made of either.
This is the personal world. It is known in physics as the ‘relative world’ because it is defined relative to the agent. In this type of world the reality is defined by the observations made, the experiences of the agent. In this case the measurement problem does not arise. It is obvious why the world changes when it is looked at – because a new observation is added to the definition of the world. This is described in ‘The Measurement Problem‘.
Hugh Everett’s Many-Worlds theory is the technical solution to all this. There is no collapse, not in physical reality. As he demonstrated, we do not need to be looking for an explanation of this absurdity because there is the appearance of collapse. But his theory has been impossible to understand because this cannot make sense in the ordinary world.
As he demonstrated, this happens only with regard to the ‘state of the memory’. This is the mind in Lockwood, here the world hologram. This makes no sense in the current worldview. But as shown here, this is exactly how the personal world operates. This is the nature of the relative world of the mind of the conscious subject. It happens only in this domain. This is described in Everett’s Solution.
This still leaves the great question unanswered. How can it be like that? The answer is that the two dynamics operate in two different types of domain. It is the relative world that operates the crazy collapse dynamics. But this different type of world has been invisible because it is ‘meta’ to the world as known to modern physics. Meta here means contextual to. The effect of the relative world arises as the result of a superposition of many ordinary worlds, a superworld.
The solution of the measurement problem is inherent in this type of relative world. Because the superworld is determinate only where observed, it changes automatically with the making of each observation. And that is how it can be like that. This is the operation of the superworld
This resolves the great quantum paradox. The technical demonstration of how this works is illustrated with regard to the famous puzzle of Schrödinger’s Cat.
This explanation has an extraordinary bonus. The whole fraught area of probability is naturally explained in the ontology of the relative world. The probability of events in the superworld is simply the percentage of worlds in which a specific event happens. Deutsch presented an explanation of this nature some time ago, but the meaning of probability in Everett’s theory is still challenged. If all possible versions of an outcome become real, what can it really mean. However, Taking Everett’s theory to mean relative worlds, the meaning of probability follows directly from his theory, as described in Probability.
The reason quantum theory seems crazy is because it actually describes the dynamics of the two different types of world. The concept of ‘logical type‘ formalises their coexistence, and makes clear how they come to have very different properties.
The principle of logical type was discovered by the polymath Bertrand Russell (1908). Although the principle is quite simple it is of vital significance in analysing systems. It states that a class is of a logical type ‘higher’ than its members. An element of the class is a ‘primitive’ component of the system. It is of ‘first logical type’. The class itself is of a higher, ‘second logical type’.
The key point is that the class inevitably has properties that an element of the class cannot have. There are various attributes that apply to a population that have no meaning with regard to a single person. The distribution of people is one example. As Russell made clear, failure to make this distinction of types inevitably leads to nonsense results and paradox. This is the origin of the measurement problem as described in Logical Types.
The Block Universe
The great paradoxes of quantum theory are resolved by the personal world. But there is another major conceptual revolution that has also lain incomplete. Relativity is universally accepted as the correct description of the universe, but here also there are great paradoxes. There is no passage of time. And there is no ‘Now’, the present moment. This was of great concern to Einstein who coined the term.
The situation follows automatically from the physics. As shown by relativity, the universe is a static, four-dimensional, space-time continuum. This means the past and even the future are ‘there’ like the North and the South. This means there can be no passage of time, and there can be no Now. This is all described in The Block Universe.
The Moving Now
The remarkable physicist Hermann Weyl solved both these paradoxes at a stroke back in 1949. His solution is simple, even obvious:
The objective world simply is, it does not happen. Only to the gaze of my consciousness, crawling up the life-line of my body, does the world fleetingly come to life. (1949, 116)
In other words, the passage of time exists only subjectively, only in the experience of consciousness. The Now is simply where the consciousness is along the static life-line of the body.
As you drive down a dark road in the night, your headlights make a flood of light that moves along the road with you. The blaze of illumination lights up one section of the road after another, always lighting up the road where you are. In a logically identical manner, the viewpoint of consciousness moves along your life-line ‘lighting up’ each moment in turn. And the Now passes into the future.
The life-line is now known as the ‘worldline’, meaning the whole four-dimensional existence of an object, strung out in the four-dimensional space-time. The worldline is the ‘rail’ along which the Now passes. Subjectively, as it does so, the moving viewpoint gives rise to the experience of the passage of time.
This is so at odds with the current worldview it is generally ignored completely. But this is the only known explanation. And it works perfectly, as illustrated in The Now.
Weyl’s explanation makes perfect sense. But then we are led to the inevitable conclusion that consciousness is a phenomenon of a very special nature. It has to be to the moments along the lifeline as the movie projector is to the frames of the movie. In order to pass through the static space-time, it must necessarily be a property of the universe itself. This is the insurmountable problem with respect to physics.
Again the problem is the assumption of physicalism. Although the experiencing consciousness is not a physical phenomenon, it gives rise, subjectively, to the effect of the passage of time in physical reality. But such a concept is routinely rejected because it cannot fit with the scientific worldview.
Logical type enables us to categorise this phenomenon, and thus helps to make sense of it. The experiencing consciousness is of a further, third, logical type, as described in Consciousness. This also explains another longtime puzzle. The experiencing consciousness is the universal spirit. This is the ‘I’ that experiences being ‘me’.
The Movie of Life
In consciousness, the static universe comes to life. The movie of life runs. When we understand how all this operates, it becomes clear where the influence of strange attractors operates.
We are all swept along through time as consciousness passes along the worldline. Thus we experience the time evolution of the ordinary world. As each observation is made a different dynamics operates. As a result, the individual moves to a different definition of the world. It is this transition that is altered by confirmation bias.
It is consciousness that brings about the operation of both dynamics. As illustrated in The Movie of Life, this explains exactly how the world actually works. And that shows exactly how manifestation works.
The next and final main section is A Marvellous Vision.