# The Naked Scientists Forum

### Author Topic: Does reality not exist until we observe it?  (Read 1181 times)

#### Nilak

• Full Member
• Posts: 65
• Thanked: 3 times
##### Does reality not exist until we observe it?
« on: 01/10/2016 05:51:41 »
Consciousness causes the wave function to collapse acording to this interpretation. The wave function of any quantum object says that it can go anywhere with a certain probability. Once we make a measurement we can predict future position drawing a probability distribution. Say we launch a 1kg copper ball at 10mps from towards a infinitely large flat screen 10m away. There is a probability p(1000) to land at 1km away from center is extremely low, but it not zero. The ball is a superposition of being everywhere in the universe until it is observed and pinpointed. The probability to be observed on a straight line is something like 10exp1000/10exp1001. The superposition seem to be true, otherwise quantum computers wouldn't work   . If we make a measurement at 5m and find the ball on center then p(1000) reduces further. I can now conclude that the whole universe is in a superposition of all possible states but only the consciousness reduces the wavefunctions of the quantum objects it observes to only one however obeying Heissenberg's principle . This needs to be consistent with the past. In the case of quantum eraser experiment it seems that the quantum objects predict what the consciousness will find out and reduce their superposition to only one posibility at the position of measurement then again it continues the wave function from there. All consciousness observers have their own "observed" universe that is always consistent with the past. When two consciousness observers exchange information, quantum eraser effects occur and they will not be able to tell the differences between their own "observed" universes.  Q bits for example are in a superposition of being equally 0 and 1 (up or down). Since the universe is made of quantum objects like that it means the whole universe is a quantum system. At a large scale we don't see the probabilities game and things seem certain. I think there a many other exciting conclusion we can draw.
« Last Edit: 01/10/2016 09:14:32 by chris »

#### Zowie

• Jr. Member
• Posts: 21
##### Re: Copenhagen interpretation implications
« Reply #1 on: 01/10/2016 07:58:29 »
The Copenhagen interpretation is wrong.

We are not special and neither is our consciousness. The universe exists objectively, not subjectively.

The uncertainty principle confuses a lot of people. All it is saying is that measuring a particle alters its position or momentum. It doesn't mean that reality is undecided before observed. That's ludicrous. Whatever did the universe do before we even arrived on the scene?

If you want to know my thought it's that the future already exists. QM has devised numerous methods to try and trick the results of QM but these fail because the future cannot be tricked.

#### Colin2B

• Global Moderator
• Neilep Level Member
• Posts: 1779
• Thanked: 116 times
##### Re: Does reality not exist until we observe it?
« Reply #2 on: 01/10/2016 09:50:14 »
Consciousness causes the wave function to collapse acording to this interpretation.
The interpretation does not refer to the consciousness of the observer but to the interaction with the device making the measurement. For example, a photon hits a detector and ceases to exist - its wave function has collapsed - and we know where it was when it hit. Bohr was very clear that the result can and should be described classically using ordinary language.
The wave function is only a probabilistic description.

The following users thanked this post: jeffreyH

#### Nilak

• Full Member
• Posts: 65
• Thanked: 3 times
##### Re: Does reality not exist until we observe it?
« Reply #3 on: 01/10/2016 11:15:13 »
Yes, you are right. It is actually the Neumann–Wigner interpretation derived from Copenhagen interpretation.
However in the delayed choice quantum eraser the measurement doesn't perturbe the path of the photon going to the screen.
« Last Edit: 01/10/2016 11:22:11 by Nilak »

#### Nilak

• Full Member
• Posts: 65
• Thanked: 3 times
##### Re: Copenhagen interpretation implications
« Reply #4 on: 01/10/2016 11:19:59 »
Quote from: Zowie

If you want to know my thought it's that the future already exists. QM has devised numerous methods to try and trick the results of QM but these fail because the future cannot be tricked.
I also said that the quantum objects predict the future and this is seen in the DS quantum eraser. It suggests the future is already known or it already exists.
« Last Edit: 01/10/2016 11:22:41 by Nilak »

#### geordief

• Jr. Member
• Posts: 28
• Thanked: 1 times
##### Re: Does reality not exist until we observe it?
« Reply #5 on: 01/10/2016 11:27:22 »
Consciousness causes the wave function to collapse acording to this interpretation.
The interpretation does not refer to the consciousness of the observer but to the interaction with the device making the measurement. For example, a photon hits a detector and ceases to exist - its wave function has collapsed - and we know where it was when it hit. Bohr was very clear that the result can and should be described classically using ordinary language.
The wave function is only a probabilistic description.
Must  the interaction be with a "detector" or simply with another object?

The "observer" is an integral part of the physical universe ,is it not ? There is no such thing as a disembodied observer (or a pure observation) ,is there?

PS is there no way to format posts?

The following users thanked this post: Nilak

#### alancalverd

• Global Moderator
• Neilep Level Member
• Posts: 4507
• Thanked: 139 times
• life is too short to drink instant coffee
##### Re: Does reality not exist until we observe it?
« Reply #6 on: 01/10/2016 12:23:08 »
One of the problems of human vanity is that some people confuse mathematical approximations to reality with reality itself. Another is the introduction of "consciousness" into discussions of science, particularly if it is used without definition.

The word "observation" in physics simply means an interaction with a "third-party" object known as the observer. If that interaction is to have any effect on said object, it must involve the transfer of energy between the observed phenomenon and the observer so it must alter the nature of the interaction. We can model all this with collapsing wavefunctions but if we reduce the energy transfer to zero, there's nothing to prevent the interaction taking place in the absence of an observer.

The following users thanked this post: jeffreyH, Nilak

#### jeffreyH

• Global Moderator
• Neilep Level Member
• Posts: 3773
• Thanked: 47 times
• The graviton sucks
##### Re: Does reality not exist until we observe it?
« Reply #7 on: 01/10/2016 13:36:10 »
On topics such as this you will get the most straight forward answer from Alan. You should take it in and remember it.

#### geordief

• Jr. Member
• Posts: 28
• Thanked: 1 times
##### Re: Does reality not exist until we observe it?
« Reply #8 on: 01/10/2016 14:56:01 »
One of the problems of human vanity is that some people confuse mathematical approximations to reality with reality itself. Another is the introduction of "consciousness" into discussions of science, particularly if it is used without definition.

The word "observation" in physics simply means an interaction with a "third-party" object known as the observer. If that interaction is to have any effect on said object, it must involve the transfer of energy between the observed phenomenon and the observer so it must alter the nature of the interaction. We can model all this with collapsing wavefunctions but if we reduce the energy transfer to zero, there's nothing to prevent the interaction taking place in the absence of an observer.
If the object is "third-party" what are the other two parties ?

Are they two particles (or fields?) that meet one another?

It seems strange that a third party needs to be involved. Is there any way to explain why this should be so other than apparently it is?

Do you have an example of  an interaction  where the energy transfer is zero?

Might that be when positive transfers exactly match negative transfers?

#### Bill S

• Neilep Level Member
• Posts: 1797
• Thanked: 11 times
##### Re: Does reality not exist until we observe it?
« Reply #9 on: 01/10/2016 15:06:19 »
Murray Gell-Mann's quantum flapdoodle is still alive and well.  Unfortunately, there are experts who perpetuate it.

I've just finished Vlatko Vedral's "Decoding Reality".  New Scientist describes it as: "by turns irreverent, erudite and funny".  In my opinion, it is by turns promising, disappointing and misleading.  He certainly gives the impression that the reality of the Universe is the result of our observation/interpretation of information.

#### geordief

• Jr. Member
• Posts: 28
• Thanked: 1 times
##### Re: Does reality not exist until we observe it?
« Reply #10 on: 01/10/2016 15:37:48 »
Murray Gell-Mann's quantum flapdoodle is still alive and well.  Unfortunately, there are experts who perpetuate it.

I've just finished Vlatko Vedral's "Decoding Reality".  New Scientist describes it as: "by turns irreverent, erudite and funny".  In my opinion, it is by turns promising, disappointing and misleading.  He certainly gives the impression that the reality of the Universe is the result of our observation/interpretation of information.
If I understand the gist of your contribution ,I myself have in the past  been the victim (a self victim ,probably)  of this wishful belief (that we create the world by observing it)

Can we put this idea to bed by pointing out its internal contradictions? -there must surely be a few .

Does anyone have one or two to hand ? (aside from the obvious absurdity)

#### alancalverd

• Global Moderator
• Neilep Level Member
• Posts: 4507
• Thanked: 139 times
• life is too short to drink instant coffee
##### Re: Does reality not exist until we observe it?
« Reply #11 on: 01/10/2016 15:59:27 »
Let's nail down the coffin on this one.

Common sense, evolution, and even the bloody bible, tell us that the universe created us, therefore reality cannot be a construct of the human mind. It's obviously the other way round.

#### alancalverd

• Global Moderator
• Neilep Level Member
• Posts: 4507
• Thanked: 139 times
• life is too short to drink instant coffee
##### Re: Does reality not exist until we observe it?
« Reply #12 on: 01/10/2016 16:07:44 »
One of the problems of human vanity is that some people confuse mathematical approximations to reality with reality itself. Another is the introduction of "consciousness" into discussions of science, particularly if it is used without definition.

The word "observation" in physics simply means an interaction with a "third-party" object known as the observer. If that interaction is to have any effect on said object, it must involve the transfer of energy between the observed phenomenon and the observer so it must alter the nature of the interaction. We can model all this with collapsing wavefunctions but if we reduce the energy transfer to zero, there's nothing to prevent the interaction taking place in the absence of an observer.
If the object is "third-party" what are the other two parties ?

Are they two particles (or fields?) that meet one another?
Any two things that interact

Quote
It seems strange that a third party needs to be involved. Is there any way to explain why this should be so other than apparently it is?
I explicitly said that there is no need for a third party, but the presence of one will inevitably alter the outcome (sorry, I said nature. nonsense!) because it absorbs energy emanating from the interaction.

Quote
Do you have an example of  an interaction  where the energy transfer is zero?
Can't think of one, but I'm talking about the energy transferred to the observer, not betwen the interacting bodies.

Quote
Might that be when positive transfers exactly match negative transfers?
Now you mention it, I can imagine some chemical process where two configurations of a molecule are in a dynamic equilibrium

#### Bill S

• Neilep Level Member
• Posts: 1797
• Thanked: 11 times
##### Re: Does reality not exist until we observe it?
« Reply #13 on: 01/10/2016 16:14:10 »
Quote
Can we put this idea to bed by pointing out its internal contradictions?

I think Alan covers this quite succinctly, including Zowie's question:

Quote
Whatever did the universe do before we even arrived on the scene?

I never thought I would see Alan resort to the Bible to support an argument, but "if it's there, use it", seems a good motto.

#### geordief

• Jr. Member
• Posts: 28
• Thanked: 1 times
##### Re: Does reality not exist until we observe it?
« Reply #14 on: 01/10/2016 16:21:14 »
I explicitly said that there is no need for a third party, but the presence of one will inevitably alter the outcome (sorry, I said nature. nonsense!) because it absorbs energy emanating from the interaction.

Excuse my lack of familiarity with the process but  if there are potentially 3 objects involved in the interaction,does this require the process to be synchronous  with all three objects  contributing to the same event (I realize "event" is a term from Spacetime  and Relativity and so anticipate it may not be applicable to this situation but I am out of my depth and so hope  the odd mistake  in terminology or maybe concept can be allowed -and corrected)

By the way ,am I venturing into Feynman diagram territory at all ?(I understand they are extremely useful but I have not really learned much about them)

#### Bill S

• Neilep Level Member
• Posts: 1797
• Thanked: 11 times
##### Re: Does reality not exist until we observe it?
« Reply #15 on: 01/10/2016 20:44:51 »
Definition of an Inertial Observer

I don’t remember who said it, but I have just found this among some notes.

“It is important to realize that an “observer” is a huge information-gathering system, not simply one man with binoculars.  In fact, we shall remove the human element entirely from our definition, and say that an inertial observer is simply a coordinate system for spacetime, which makes an observation simply by recording the location (x, y, z) and time (t) of an event.”

I find myself wondering to what extent "recording" is relevant.

#### Nilak

• Full Member
• Posts: 65
• Thanked: 3 times
##### Re: Does reality not exist until we observe it?
« Reply #16 on: 01/10/2016 22:51:00 »
One of the problems of human vanity is that some people confuse mathematical approximations to reality with reality itself. Another is the introduction of "consciousness" into discussions of science, particularly if it is used without definition.

The word "observation" in physics simply means an interaction with a "third-party" object known as the observer. If that interaction is to have any effect on said object, it must involve the transfer of energy between the observed phenomenon and the observer so it must alter the nature of the interaction. We can model all this with collapsing wavefunctions but if we reduce the energy transfer to zero, there's nothing to prevent the interaction taking place in the absence of an observer.
I was initially strongly angainst the " consciousness collapsing the wave function" or even against the observer collapsing the wave function , which makes more sense, but I couldn't find a convincing better explanation yet for the double slit experiment, delayed choice  and for the quantum spin.
The mathematical approximations are the result of the experiments interpretations. "Superposition" is a mathematical concept that emerged from interpretation of experiments, but can you tell whether it is real or not ?

#### Nilak

• Full Member
• Posts: 65
• Thanked: 3 times
##### Re: Does reality not exist until we observe it?
« Reply #17 on: 01/10/2016 23:29:24 »
Let's nail down the coffin on this one.

Common sense, evolution, and even the bloody bible, tell us that the universe created us, therefore reality cannot be a construct of the human mind. It's obviously the other way round.

The universe exists independently of the human mind but it is different than what we observe.

#### alancalverd

• Global Moderator
• Neilep Level Member
• Posts: 4507
• Thanked: 139 times
• life is too short to drink instant coffee
##### Re: Does reality not exist until we observe it?
« Reply #18 on: 02/10/2016 00:25:06 »
I explicitly said that there is no need for a third party, but the presence of one will inevitably alter the outcome (sorry, I said nature. nonsense!) because it absorbs energy emanating from the interaction.

Excuse my lack of familiarity with the process but  if there are potentially 3 objects involved in the interaction,does this require the process to be synchronous  with all three objects  contributing to the same event (I realize "event" is a term from Spacetime  and Relativity and so anticipate it may not be applicable to this situation but I am out of my depth and so hope  the odd mistake  in terminology or maybe concept can be allowed -and corrected)

Two billiard balls collide. No observer. Sound waves emanate and dissipate into space. Outcome 1.

Two billiard balls collide. Microphone and tape recorder. Some sound energy is converted to electrical signal thence to magnetic signal. Outcome 2.

Tree falls in forest. Bugs eat tree. Outcome 1

Tree falls in forest. Zen master observes photons and phonons emanating from event, wonders what would have happened if he hadn't been there, writes book, causes confusion among entire human race. Outcome 2.

No simultaneity required. The observation takes place some time after the event.

Now someone is bound to raise the question of the double slit experiment. Here's my interpretation.

There is no question of the photon "interfering with itself". That is confusing two models of photon behavior: a wave can interfere constructively or destructively but a particle cannot interfere destructively with itself or an identical particle. The use of an integrating observer (a photographic plate) confuses the issue because a single photon cannot interact with several film grains - it only has enough energy to blacken one grain. So what you are seeing is the spatial probability distribution of photons  integrated over time. Now cover one slit. Since the probability of a photon passing through that slit is now 0 the spatial probabilty function downstream of the slits must revert to the function associated with one slit.

#### geordief

• Jr. Member
• Posts: 28
• Thanked: 1 times
##### Re: Does reality not exist until we observe it?
« Reply #19 on: 02/10/2016 01:07:22 »
Are all observations equal ?

Do some observations share more than others in the overall energy transfer of the reactions?

On the face of it an observation of a single photon from a supernova seems of less consequence than  that of a delicate microphone placed next to a nuclear explosion....

When  the description is of a collapse of a waveform as a result of an observation does this description apply equally to the mechanics involved in the making of the observation or (as I think I may have heard ) is it possible to make the observation without any physical connection at all  to the event that is being "observed" -a sort of "passive or deduced  observation" if I  heard it right?

I mean does  the waveform of the observing mechanism collapse along  with or as well as   the waveform of the thing that  has been observed?

#### Colin2B

• Global Moderator
• Neilep Level Member
• Posts: 1779
• Thanked: 116 times
##### Re: Does reality not exist until we observe it?
« Reply #20 on: 02/10/2016 09:48:38 »

I think you are making this much more complex and esoteric than it needs to be.
Reread the last paragraph of Alan's last post. Experiments with sources which release single photons at a time show the characteristic build up of the interference pattern over time.
A big problem here comes from the use of the word observation which is really used in the context of interaction. A photon hitting a leaf interacts with the atoms in the leaf whether seen or not. We are only talking about single interactions at a time, the microphone you mention might pick up millions of interactions in the microsecond before it is destroyed, but observation refers only to the individual interactions.

In your final sentence you use the word waveform, do you mean wavefunction? This is only a description of the item's probability of position etc. When it collapses the probability is 1 for position, momentum etc. Imagine you have a deck of cards, before dealing the top card you can only say the probability of it being a particular card is 1/52, once the card is dealt the probability of it being a particular card is 1, it's wavefunction has collapsed.
The wavefunction of the observing mechanism will change with the interaction eg a photon hitting a photoelectric material will change the energy of an electron causing it to move, hence its wavefunction will change, it would only collapse if it too was detected.

#### geordief

• Jr. Member
• Posts: 28
• Thanked: 1 times
##### Re: Does reality not exist until we observe it?
« Reply #21 on: 02/10/2016 10:23:49 »

I think you are making this much more complex and esoteric than it needs to be.
Reread the last paragraph of Alan's last post. Experiments with sources which release single photons at a time show the characteristic build up of the interference pattern over time.
A big problem here comes from the use of the word observation which is really used in the context of interaction. A photon hitting a leaf interacts with the atoms in the leaf whether seen or not. We are only talking about single interactions at a time, the microphone you mention might pick up millions of interactions in the microsecond before it is destroyed, but observation refers only to the individual interactions.

In your final sentence you use the word waveform, do you mean wavefunction? This is only a description of the item's probability of position etc. When it collapses the probability is 1 for position, momentum etc. Imagine you have a deck of cards, before dealing the top card you can only say the probability of it being a particular card is 1/52, once the card is dealt the probability of it being a particular card is 1, it's wavefunction has collapsed.
The wavefunction of the observing mechanism will change with the interaction eg a photon hitting a photoelectric material will change the energy of an electron causing it to move, hence its wavefunction will change, it would only collapse if it too was detected.
I see . So in my microphone scenario  we are ,in theory really just  talking about the interaction  between two particles in the explosion and any one particle in the microphone ?

Can I still ask if there is  a symmetry between these three objects so that (like perhaps in a three card trick) any one of the three can in principle play the role of "observer"

Yes my use if "waveform" instead of "wave function"  shows the  threadbare state of my knowledge in this area   but I feel  in my own mind I  am making some progress in my understanding (it feels like a lot to me  -a matter of scale of course  ;)     )

If  others can learn anything  from my misunderstandings and the clarifications/redirections  that would be the icing on the cake.
« Last Edit: 02/10/2016 11:18:59 by geordief »

#### Colin2B

• Global Moderator
• Neilep Level Member
• Posts: 1779
• Thanked: 116 times
##### Re: Does reality not exist until we observe it?
« Reply #22 on: 02/10/2016 13:17:40 »

Can I still ask if there is  a symmetry between these three objects so that (like perhaps in a three card trick) any one of the three can in principle play the role of "observer"
Which 3 objects do you refer to?
If we take the case of a photon hitting a detector the photon ceases to exist, it is hard to imagine how this could be an observation from the point of view of the photon. Remember, we are talking about the collapse of the photon's wavefunction being detected.

Don't t worry about misunderstanding, we all started in the same place.

#### geordief

• Jr. Member
• Posts: 28
• Thanked: 1 times
##### Re: Does reality not exist until we observe it?
« Reply #23 on: 02/10/2016 13:33:38 »

Which 3 objects do you refer to?
If we take the case of a photon hitting a detector the photon ceases to exist, it is hard to imagine how this could be an observation from the point of view of the photon. Remember, we are talking about the collapse of the photon's wavefunction being detected.

Don't t worry about misunderstanding, we all started in the same place.

Well it would be the photon , the particle on the screen impacted and the first particle in the detector that received information about the event(if that is the right term )

I see that there is an asymmetry in term of time (the detector is later than the other two ) and so my "threesome" scenario seems to have failed on that count anyway:(

What about a twosome?(the photon and the particle on the screen) Are they  equal partners? Do they both see their wavefunction collapse at the same time  dependent on a third party involvement albeit postponed in time?

#### Colin2B

• Global Moderator
• Neilep Level Member
• Posts: 1779
• Thanked: 116 times
##### Re: Does reality not exist until we observe it?
« Reply #24 on: 02/10/2016 14:47:10 »
What about a twosome?(the photon and the particle on the screen) Are they  equal partners? Do they both see their wavefunction collapse at the same time
If the photon is detected by the movement of an electron in the detector then the photon ceases to exist and the electron acquires energy hence its wavefunction will change (not collapse), eg it could become a free electron.
Don't get too hung up over this idea of the wavefunction collapsing, it is only a description of probability not a causative. It's like saying a car has hit a brick wall so it's speed has collapsed, the car does not hit the wall because it's speed collapsed. There is nothing magical about this.

#### The Naked Scientists Forum

##### Re: Does reality not exist until we observe it?
« Reply #24 on: 02/10/2016 14:47:10 »