With the new physics, the physics of quantum theory and relativity, we have built technologies unimaginable only fifty 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, meaning what is physically real in the world. 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 a hundred years. The reason is that the problems in both these pillars of the new physics are not with the physics itself. What is newly presented here is that the solutions exist at different levels of logical type, effectively contextual to the physical domain universally assumed to govern all physics. As Einstein remarked, the solution cannot be known at the same level as the problem that produced it. Logical type is the key, and in this light the resolution is straightforward.
Logical type is a fundamental understanding in formal logic discovered and set down by Bertrand Russell, famous philosopher and logician. 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, which means they are quite different kinds of entities, and have different kinds of properties. A simple example is the difference between a person and a population.
The ideal example here 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. Movie films do not run themselves: an iterative, third-logical-type device is required.
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 paradoxes of the new physics arise because we have been trying to interpret all phenomena in terms of a single, fundamental level of existence. But in both quantum theory and relativity the paradoxical phenomena are emergent properties that operate at different levels of logical type.
QBism is the new interpretation of quantum theory put forward by a group of physicists led by Christopher Fuchs. A brief description is given in QBism. This theory states that the real world is determinate solely where observed. It sounds crazy, but 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 far cry from the world as we know it to be.
We now know that a phenomenon called decoherence means the physical world is generally determinate throughout, whether observed or not. So the generally accepted view is that the world we live in is an ordinary determinate domain, just as seems obvious, except where we go to examine it at submicroscopic levels. (This 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 it seems Qbism could not be correct.
QBism may sound crazy, but the first 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 only on observation. All else is indeterminate. QBism takes the principle of the standard formulation absolutely literally, with a twist not addressed in the original. The standard dynamics are operating on a per-individual basis. It is this new approach that resolves all the great paradoxes. But this is truly a huge conceptual leap from the current paradigm. As the authors state, this directly implies that only what you have personally observed is determinate, meaning physically real and actually so. Therefore, as they state:
This means that reality differs from one agent to another. (2013, 3)
So this is a very long way from our current concept of the real world. In our current view, such a personal world seems like just a piece of the imagination. Obviously, the real world is all there, real and actual. And it is; and in a way it is not. The whole deeply puzzling issue is resolved by recognising the huge piece of the puzzle missing from the picture up until now.
The Inside View
As Tegmark states:
Everett’s brilliant insight was that the MWI does explain why we perceive randomness even though the Schrödinger equation itself is completely causal. To avoid linguistic confusion, it is crucial that we distinguish between
• the outside view of the world (the way a mathematician thinks of it, i.e., as an evolving wavefunction), and
• the inside view, the way it is perceived from the subjective … perspective of an observer in it.
(1997, 2; emphasis in original)
Everett’s formulation hinges on this distinction.
As we know, we live in a great big physical world, and we call it the universe. All correct, but this universe includes all possible worlds. This is the undiluted meaning of the great equation of quantum theory, the Schrödinger wave equation. This is the primary meaning of Hugh Everett’s famous many-worlds theory. Not everyone agrees with this, but as stated by the eminent physicist David Deutsch:
The point that theorists tend to miss is that the multiplicity of reality is not only, or even primarily, a consequence of quantum theory. It is quite simply an observed fact. (1996)
In other words, this is the meaning of the new physics, whether or not we are ready to take it on. This is one of the fundamental implications of quantum theory. (This is a Level III multiverse in Tegmark’s classification (2003).)
More startling still, these many worlds are all here and now. The many worlds of quantum theory are not off away at some great distance in space and time, but right here. They are parallel physical realities, slightly different versions of the whole world, that exist in exactly the same place where we are, but in some way next door. In this sense it is just like the parallel worlds in The Long Earth science-fiction series by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. As stated by physicist Lev Vaidman:
… in addition to the world we are aware of directly, there are many other similar worlds which exist in parallel at the same space and time. (2008)
They all exist in exist in superposition. This follows automatically in the many worlds theory as explained on the Many Worlds page. The implication for the reality of the individual on the inside view is crucial.
In this kind of universe, the inside view has a very specific and highly significant property. It exists, physically instantiated, in a very large number of these worlds, and they are all coincident and superimposed. This is the nature of the quantum universe. Thus all the identical copies of the inside view are superimposed. But when you superimpose identical copies of a structure of information, what you get is simply that structure of information. In other words, in the superposition of all the worlds in which this inside view exists, there is only one, single structure of information defining this inside view. This is all described in detail in The Indeterminate World.
As described there, what this means is that the physical reality of this inside view is the effective superposition of all these worlds. Thus the physical world of a specific inside view is a whole set or class of worlds: all the worlds in which this inside view exists. This is a class-of-worlds-as-a-world. This is the axiomatic concept presented here that resolves the major paradoxes, producing the type of world described by QBism, with an explanation grounded in the roots of the new physics. As described in increasing detail in the pages presented here, this is the nature of the physical world of every conscious individual. (This does not apply to the person as usually described. The nature of the individual is described in detail in the first category of this site, beginning with World Superposition. It means that as conscious individuals we are exactly what we thought we were, and at the same time completely different.)
The World Superposition
This world superposition operates exactly as described in QBism; by definition it is indeterminate except where observed, as described in World Superposition. So here we have not only a simple rationale for this weird concept, but also a physical basis. The physical reality of the outside view is a quasi-classical world, the world as we all think of it. But the physical reality of the inside view is the world superposition, the superimposed sum of a whole class of quasi-classical worlds. The crucial point is that both views are true. Adopting the new worldview is in no way incompatible with retaining the old. The old paradigm is a straightforward subset of the new paradigm, which simply introduces logical type to the existing worldview, as a fundamental distinction. And this makes complete sense of the paradoxes of quantum theory, as shown in the subsidiary pages of World Superposition.
The current paradigm holds that the world is a quasi-classical world, essentially an ordinary world but with weird quantum effects at the submicroscopic level. The world of the inside view is a completely different type of thing to the ordinary world of the objective view. But it is simply the world of a world superposition, a class-of-worlds-as-a-world. This is the ontology of the new paradigm.
As described in increasing detail in the pages here, this is the nature of world of every conscious individual. In the stories of The Long Earth one can somehow travel from one version of the world to another. But in the universe we live in, the situation is much stranger. One lives in a great number of versions of the world, all at once. As a result, the world you live in is the world of QBism; and the world is personal because only what you have observed is determinate. And this means that without question you are influencing what you are likely to experience happening in reality, globally, very slightly, all the time, as described in Interactive Destiny. This, of course, is where the new paradigm departs utterly from the current scientific worldview.
In relativity 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 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)
This means that all possible moments exist, ‘already’. Nothing moves and nothing changes; and nothing happens. As stated by philosopher 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)
The permanent existence of the whole four-dimensional block universe leads to the other puzzle, a missing phenomenon of extraordinary significance. 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. But this is absolutely fundamental to our existence:
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 Moving Frame of Reference
The resolution to both puzzles is simple, but it is radical because it requires stepping completely outside the current paradigm. There has to be a frame of reference, a viewpoint, that moves through the static layout of time. Moving from moment to moment, in the static four-dimensional space-time, the view from this perspective is of the effective passage of time. Which is exactly what we experience.
When you take a train journey, it is clear that you are passing through the landscape of the track. Obviously though, the track and the landscape are not moving or changing. It is just your view of the landscape that is changing. The experience of the passage of time is exactly the same kind of thing. The four-dimensional space-time world is not changing at all. What is changing is the viewpoint, as the frame of reference advances to later and later times in the space-time layout.
This makes clear the nature of the Now, the present moment. At each point in time, the moment briefly encountered is the Now. The Now is simply the view in the moving frame of reference. Another problem solved. The universe is like the movie film, with all possible moments simply there in sequence in the four-dimensional space-time manifold. Nothing happens. The moving frame of reference is like the projector, a completely different kind of thing. This is the only possible explanation of these phenomena, the passage of time, and the Now, in the universe that defines no such things.
A solution of just this type was presented seventy years ago. As the great physicist and philosopher Hermann Weyl 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)
In other words, the moving frame of reference is the frame of reference of consciousness. But this is generally taken to be a completely ludicrous idea. It is very firmly held that consciousness, along with everything else, can only be an attribute of the ordinary physical reality. But the experiencing consciousness Weyl is addressing is a totally different kind of thing. As he clearly states in his essay Mind and Nature (1934) consciousness does not belong to the world. It is a property of the totality. As philosopher David Chalmers, Director of the Centre for Consciousness at Australian National University, makes clear, this can only be a fundamental property of the whole system: “… alongside mass, charge and space-time” (1996). In other words, as held by a number of the greatest physicists, including Erwin Schrödinger and Max Planck, it is a fundamental property of the universe.
This means that the experiencing consciousness is to the moments in space-time as the move projector is to the frames of the movie film, as described in Universe Consciousness. This means it is of a further, third, logical type. In other words, it is a completely different kind of thing again to either physical reality, the ground of existence, or the inside view, the reality of the conscious individual. It is the experiencer of the inside view, and the iterator of the moments of life in the real world. Consciousness is to the moments of reality as the projector is to the frames of the movie film. In other words, reality does work exactly as Weyl describes.
A Special Case
With respect to both quantum theory and relativity, the new paradigm incorporates the current paradigm, subsuming it. The current paradigm of physics is framed in just one of the three levels of logical type required to explain how reality actually operates. The new paradigm extends this view, bringing in a wider and more comprehensive conception of the universe. This is exactly the kind of thing we would expect from 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 in quantum theory all large aggregates of matter and energy also follow the Newtonian laws. In other words, with respect to both pillars of the new physics the new science subsumes the highly successful science of the previous paradigm. At the same time, the new principles explain the anomalies in the previous worldview. In the same way, the existing science of the quasi-classical world is a special case of the new paradigm: the world encountered is the reality of a superposition of these worlds. As shown here, the paradoxes of the existing physics 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. The world is personal, determinate solely where you, personally, have observed it. This is terribly alien, seeming to threaten the whole basis of our current worldview, the current paradigm of objective physical reality. Plus, of course, it seems so obvious that in fact we do 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. Obviously, one must indeed live in an objectively real, physical, reality; but one lives in a great number of such realities, all at once.
The new paradigm is less challenging when we realise it includes both kinds of world. Objective, determinate, physical reality is not abandoned but stands fundamental as ever. This is the fundamental component, of which all kinds and versions of physical reality are built. But the world of the inside view, the world of the conscious individual, the perceiving subject, is equally fundamental. The world of the outside view, the world that must exist, given the equations of physics, is of course real, fundamental and existing. This is the basis of all reality. But the world of the inside view is a world superposition, a class-of-worlds-as-a-world. This is the explanation of the paradoxes of quantum theory. The famous measurement problem is simply an illustration of exactly how this kind of reality works, as described in as described in Measurement Problem.
In this light, all the quantum phenomena that seem so utterly paradoxical – such as Schrödinger’s cat, and Wigner’s friend – are exactly what we would expect. These are simply examples of what it is like in this kind of world, a world of different, higher, logical type: the determinacy of the world is defined solely by observations. These apparently paradoxical phenomena are precisely retrodicted by the new paradigm, meaning this is the explanation of scientific facts we know for sure but have not been able to understand.
In regard to relativity, Weyl’s solution resolves the paradoxes, but this is equally alien. These great 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. Such a phenomenon cannot be an attribute of physical reality. As described by Chalmers, it can only be a fundamental property of the whole system, contextual to the moments through which it passes. Just as a DVD cannot work without a player, the moving, changing world cannot actually happen without a moving frame of reference. We have direct evidence of this phenomenon, in the moving Now, the ever-new present moment. Thus it is clear that the experiencing consciousness can only be an emergent property of the universe as a whole. Once this is understood as a basic property of the reality encountered, it is clear that the passage of time and the Now are simply the way the world works. Again, the apparently paradoxical phenomena are retrodicted.
This page presents an overview of the underlying physics of the new paradigm; the full story is presented in the subsidiary pages. 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 as shown in the pages here. Moreover, the explanatory principles described follow automatically when the fundamental theories of the new physics are taken literally. The QBism type of world is directly implied in Hugh Everett’s famous many worlds theory, as explained in The Indeterminate World. The fundamental error of understanding is the assumption that the observer is simply a physical object. In fact, the frame of reference in which observations are made is of a fundamentally different nature. This is addressed in the other main category of pages, beginning with The World Hologram,. The nature of the individual is examined in depth, and the extraordinary implications are explored. The structure of the new paradigm is presented, along with the radical implications for the individual. 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 areas of the subject in further detail.