With the new physics, the physics of quantum theory and relativity, we have built technologies unimaginable only 50 years ago. But the full meaning of the science we have discovered has remained a mystery. There are major paradoxes because fundamental attributes of the reality we observe, both in experiments and in everyday life, cannot be explained in the physics. In quantum theory the great paradox is the measurement problem which addresses the determinacy of the physical world, i.e. what is physically real. In relativity the great paradoxes are the passage of time, and the Now, meaning the present moment. These problems have stymied the best minds on the planet for nearly 100 years; the reason is that the problems in both these pillars of the new physics are not with the physics itself.
As stated by Heinz Pagels quoted on the Home page, the new physics is a huge scientific revolution; and as shown by Thomas Kuhn a new language or lexicon is required to describe the new conceptual structure, which otherwise remains invisible from within the existing paradigm, the well-established and generally-accepted scientific worldview. And as shown here, the great paradoxes have already been resolved, but in all cases these are not seen as solutions. The key point is that the frame of reference of the individual is a different type of phenomenon to the frame of reference of objective physical reality. It is of different ‘logical type’, and this is where all the paradoxes arise. This is the new lexicon required. This provides the explanatory principle that not only makes sense of all these paradoxical phenomena, but also reveals why they have been incomprehensible.
Logical type is a fundamental understanding in formal logic presented by Bertrand Russell. A set of things is a quite different kind of thing to any one of those things – a member or element of that set: they are of different logical type. They are quite different kinds of entities, and have different kinds of properties, like a person and a population. And as Russell demonstrated, not to distinguish between different logical types inevitably leads to paradox and nonsense results. The great paradoxes in both pillars of the new physics arise because of exactly this problem.
The ideal example is a movie. A movie film is simply a sequence of still images; but the movie itself, as a dynamical whole, is of course a completely different kind of thing to the still image of a single frame. The frame is of the first ‘primitive’ logical type; the movie as a whole, the set of frames, is of a second logical type. You cannot play a single frame, it is not the right kind of thing. The movie projector is a different kind of thing again. It iterates the frames of any and all movies. It is thus of the class of all possible sets of frames, of a third logical type.
The paradoxes of the new physics arise because we are trying to interpret all phenomena in terms of a single level of logical type. In quantum theory the inexplicable attributes of reality are phenomena of the second logical type. In relativity both the missing pieces of reality, meaning the obvious features of the world that are inexplicable in the physics, are phenomena of the third logical type.
In quantum theory the great paradox is the surreal significance of observation. Making observations of physical reality seems to directly affect the physical reality of the world itself. Which is obviously absurd because observation is a purely passive action. This is the observation problem.
It has often been stated that the observation problem arises because when a physicist attempts to observe a subatomic particle, the experimental apparatus inevitably alters the subatomic particle’s trajectory. This is not the problem. The great paradox is that observation has an effect quite apart from any experimental issues of this nature.
QBism resolves this problem. This is a new interpretation put forward by a group of physicists led by Christopher Fuchs. The full meaning is described in QBism. This approach resolves all the problems in the quantum theory. As the authors state, this:
… removes the paradoxes, conundra, and pseudo-problems that have plagued quantum foundations for the past nine decades (Fuchs et al., 2013, 1)
This is the power of QBism. It works. But it is a huge conceptual leap from the current paradigm. As the authors state, this directly implies that only what is personally observed is determinate, meaning physically real and actually so. As the authors state:
This means that reality differs from one agent to another. (2013, 3)
While QBism may sound beyond the pale of nonsense, the first textbook interpretation of the quantum theory, the Copenhagen interpretation, said much the same thing.The Copenhagen interpretation took the standard textbook formulation of quantum mechanics, the von Neumann – Dirac formulation, at face value; and this states that physical reality becomes determinate on observation, and is otherwise indeterminate. QBism simply makes it clear that this is operating on a per-individual basis, hence personal worlds, different from one individual to another.
The trouble is that QBism is nonetheless deeply incompatible with the current paradigm because we now know that a phenomenon called ‘decoherence’ means that the world is essentially determinate throughout, whether observed or not.
This kind of domain is often called a quasi-classical world, meaning it is to all ordinary intents and purposes an ordinary physical world as understood in classical Newtonian mechanics, although at quantum levels it behaves very differently.
So the generally accepted view is that the world we live in is an ordinary determinate domain, except where we go to examine it at submicroscopic levels. But there is a huge piece of the puzzle missing from this picture.
The Inside View
As Max Tegmark explains, the development of the new physics has taught us that we must carefully distinguish between two different types of frame of reference, different views of a physical theory:
• The bird perspective or outside view, which is the way a mathematician views it.
• The frog perspective or inside view, which is the way it is perceived by a [conscious individual] in it. (1998, 23)
The outside view is the objective view, also called the view from nowhere because it is theoretical. It is simply what physical reality must be like, given the equations of physics. But this is where all the trouble starts.
The great equation of quantum theory, the Schrödinger wave equation, defines all possible worlds. This is the meaning of Everett’s famous many-worlds theory. we think we live in a great big world, and we call it the universe, and we do, but this universe includes all possible worlds. And they are all here and now. They are parallel realities. They are parallel realities, slightly different versions of the whole world, that exist exactly where we are. In this sense it is just like the parallel worlds in the Long Earth science- series by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
Now we come to the new explanation. Each person actually exists in a very large number of these worlds, simultaneously. As described in WS this is well-established physics. As shown there, taking Everett’s theory at face value, this automatically implies that physical reality is the effective superposition of all these worlds. And this world superposition operates exactly as described in QBism; it is indeterminate except where observed. Here, however, we have a simple rationale for this weird concept, and a physical basis. And both views are true. The outside view is the view of an ordinary determinate physical world, but the inside view is the view of a vast number of such worlds all at once. This is a domain of different logical type to the ordinary world. This makes complete sense of the quantum theory.
It also explains why there has been a century of struggle to define exactly what the world we experience actually is. There are two quite different kinds of world in the physics, but this has not been recognised. They are of different logical type, which is why they are so different. Hence the conclusion in the New Scientist referred to on the Home page. The current paradigm holds that the world is a quasi-classical world, essentially an ordinary world with weird quantum effects at the submicroscopic level. But the world of the inside view is a completely different kind of thing to the ordinary world of the objective view. This is the ontology of the new paradigm.
This integrates perfectly with the resolution of the paradoxes of relativity. Here the great problem is the complete absence of any explanation for two phenomena that are totally fundamental to our experience of the world, namely the present moment and the passage of time. The physics shows us there can be no such thing as the passage of time because the space-time world is static. As stated by David Deutsch:
Spacetime is sometimes referred to as the ‘block universe’ because within it the whole of physical reality – past present and future – is laid out once and for all, frozen in a single four-dimensional block. (1997, 268)
As stated by Rebecca Goldstein:
In Einstein’s physics, there is no passage of time, no unidirectional flow from the fixed past and toward the uncertain future. The temporal component of space-time is as static as its spatial components; physical time is as still as physical space. It is all laid out, the whole spread of events, in the tenseless four-dimensional space-time manifold. (2005, 254)
This means that all possible moments exist, ‘already’. Nothing moves and nothing changes; and nothing happens. This leads into the second great missing phenomenon. As David Mermin explains, although a special point in time, the present moment, the Now, is immediately evident to us, there is no such thing in physics:
My experience of the Now is a primitive fact. It simply can’t be argued with. Sum; ergo nunc est. [I am; so now is] How can there be no place in physics for something as obvious as that? (2013)
The resolution is simple but radical. There has to be a frame of reference, a viewpoint, that moves through the static layout of time, moment by moment. It moves from moment to moment in the static four-dimensional space-time; in logical terms it works exactly like a computer that plays frame after frame of a movie from a block of solid state memory. We know this is happening because this is what we experience.
In this moving frame of reference, there is the experience of the passage of time as moment after moment is experienced, and the frame of reference advances to later and later times in the space-time layout. At each point in time, the moment encountered is the Now, the present moment. Problem solved. This is how to explain the experience of the passage of time, and a specific present moment, the Now, in the static, permanent space-time of the relativistic universe – the only possible way.
This is the solution presented by Hermann Weyl who stated emphatically:
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)
Here the problem is that this is taken to be a ludicrous idea. It is very firmly held that consciousness, along with everything else, can only be an attribute of the ordinary physical reality. And again, since experiencing is purely passive, the idea that consciousness could be relevant to physics is considered a standing joke. Fair enough because in the domain of physics this is a ludicrous if rather charming concept. But the experiencing consciousness Weyl is addressing is a totally different kind of thing to ordinary physical reality. As he clearly states in his essay Mind and Nature (1934) consciousness does not belong to the world. As demonstrated by David Chalmers (1996), it can only be a fundamental property of the universe as a whole. As held by a number of the greatest physicists, including Erwin Schrödinger and Max Planck, it is a fundamental property of the universe. As described in Universe Consciousness it is of a further, third, logical type. It is to the moments the physical world the way the projector is to the frames of the movie film. And this means that reality does work exactly as Weyl describes. Consciousness is to the moments of reality as the projector is to the frames of the movie film.
A Special Case
The new paradigm incorporates the current paradigm, subsuming it. The current domain of physics is framed in just one of the three levels of logical type required to explain how reality actually operates. This is exactly the kind of thing we would expect of any development of a successful science. Newtonian mechanics is an ideal case in point. At everyday speeds and distances, relativity gives the same results as Newtonian mechanics; and all large aggregates of quanta follow this mechanics also. In both cases, the new science subsumes the highly successful science of the previous paradigm, as new principles are discovered. In the same way, the existing science is a special case of the new paradigm. The paradoxes demonstrate the requirement for the additional levels of logical type to be part of the science.
The New Paradigm
The new principles that complete the great conceptual revolution of the new physics are deeply challenging because of the impact they have on our concept of the world. QBism is correct, but it is very alien, seeming to threaten the whole basis of the existing paradigm. Plus, of course, it seems so obvious that in fact we live in an ordinary physical world, determinate all through, away beyond the horizon and afar. And of course, we do; and we don’t. The resolution is that both are true. The new paradigm includes both kinds of world. Objective, determinate, physical reality is not abandoned but stands fundamental as ever. But the world of the inside view, the world of the perceiving subject, is fundamental also.
In this light all the quantum phenomena that seem paradoxical – including the effects illustrated by Schrödinger’s cat, Wigner’s friend, and the measurement problem – are exactly what we would expect. These are simply examples of what it is like in this kind of world, one in which the determinacy of the world is defined by observations: when an observation is made, the determinacy of the world of the individual that makes the observation effectively changes. These phenomena are retrodicted by the new paradigm, meaning this is the explanation of scientific facts we know for sure but have not been able to understand.
Weyl’s solution resolves the great paradoxes of relativity but this is equally alien. These paradoxes, the Now and the passage of time, are routinely ignored, but these are the facts. As Carnap records, Einstein told him that the problem of the Now worried him seriously:
He explained that the experience of the Now means something special for man, something essentially different from the past and the future, but that this important difference does not and cannot occur within physics. (1963)
The phenomenon of the Now cannot occur in physics because it is an attribute of the moving frame of reference. This means it can only be a property of the universe as a whole, contextual to the moments through which it passes. In other words it is third-logical-type phenomenon, meaning it is to the physical moments as the projector is to the frames of the movie film. Given this distinction, the experience of the passage of time – in the moving frame of reference, the moving Now – is exactly what we would expect.
Given that we are experiencing the passage of time Weyl is inevitably correct. Each moment fleetingly becomes the Now as the moving frame of reference of the experiencing consciousness progresses through space-time. Again, these phenomena are retrodicted.
QBism is the physics of the inside view, and the inside view is the experience of the observations being made, by consciousness. All this follows from the existing physics. Indeed, the explanatory principle appears automatically when the fundamental theories of the new physics are taken literally. It is all implicit in Hugh Everett’s famous many worlds theory as explained in World Superposition.
This page presents an overview of the new paradigm; the full story is presented in the following pages, beginning with the nature of the inside view, the world of The Perceiving Subject. In the world of this new paradigm there are emergent properties available to us to understand and make use of which do not exist in the objective physical world of the current paradigm. The further implications are tremendous. As described in Interactive Destiny, each individual is effectively directing which version of events is likely to be experienced happening in their version of world, globally, ever so slightly, all the time. Given that consciousness is the third-logical-type phenomenon of the universe, Quantum Immortality and Quantum Karma are real phenomena. The cultural implications are described in Human Being 2.0. The reason all this knowledge has not come to light before is described in Paradigm Shift. All references are given in References.
The tree menu on the right of the page can be used to explore specific subjects in further detail.