Looking At Reality From Quantum Mechanics View
How does reality look like in an infinitely small world?
What is reality?
We could say that reality is all the things that exist. But is the reality we see, the same for everybody? Can we talk about the existence of objective reality?
Just to be clear, by the objective reality I mean something that exists independently from your mind and perception.
New scientific findings bring answers, of course, but new questions as well.
I want to look at this topic from a relatively different angle. I am going to use one of the most recent subjects of study by modern science: quantum mechanics.
Some ideas from the past
The well-known philosopher Immanuel Kant, believed in the existence of an objective reality called Noumenon. Even though he acknowledged the existence of such a reality, he was also convinced that we, as human beings, are not able to reach that kind of universal reality. According to Kant, we only deal with Phenomena or appearances, which constitute our subjective reality. In Critics of Pure Reason (1781), he argued that we have a picture of the world that is just a construction, not a picture of how it really is.
Historically, physics has always been in charge of understanding the laws of Nature and that is why I dived into one of the most complex parts of it, at least to try to answer my question.
Classical vs Modern Physics
Classical physics tries to explain the behaviour of macroscopical systems: an apple falling from a tree, gravitational or electrical forces. When we transition from a macroscopical to a microscopical system, the laws of classical physics are not well suited to describe what is happening. In other words, they don’t work. To deal with this problem, in the twentieth century new theories emerged and now, they are part of the so-called modern physics. What modern physics is about, is studying the laws behind infinitely small or infinitely big: it could be very high velocities or very small distances. Quantum mechanics, in particular, studies the behaviour of elementary particles like electron, neutron, photon as so on.
In quantum mechanics, a lot of things behave differently than classical mechanics. For example, you can’t determine exactly where a particle will be at a certain time: you can just calculate the probability of that particle being in a certain place at a certain time.
You’re not in control, randomness is.
Not only does God play dice but… he sometimes throws them where they cannot be seen.
- Stephen Hawking
It’s all about interaction
Let’s pretend to be the most talented painter in the world, just for a minute. We have to paint a picture of all the existing things and we can’t leave anything out. We have the responsibility of painting everything completely: we don’t want to fail.
We need to include in our frame not only the normal-sized world but the extremely small aspects of reality as well as the infinitely bigger ones.
Painting is tough, but how about painting something you can’t see using just your eyes? Well, it would be challenging. Plus, it seems that quantum particles do not even exist by themselves!
Heisenberg, one of the pioneers of quantum mechanics, argued that they only exist when they are measured or, to be more specific, when they interact with something else. So, according to him, the act of perception is responsible for altering the reality being observed. To use his own words:
[T]he atoms or elementary particles themselves are not real; they form a world of potentialities or possibilities rather than one of things or facts.
Another relevant point is explained by the Italian physicist Carlo Rovelli, in his book “Seven brief lessons on physics”. He says that quantum mechanics equations do not explain what happens to a physical system but instead, how a physical system is perceived by another one. What does this mean? Does it mean that the essential reality of a system is non-understandable?
We are going back to the initial question: Does objective reality exist or there are only subjective realities dependent on how we see the world?
When we pass from a normal-size reality to a microscopical one, we kindly dive into a weird world where we don’t know much. The quantum world is ruled by randomness, non-determinism and disorder (disorder meaning an order that we don’t understand yet). To understand the microscopical world, it has been necessary to introduce new concepts and mathematical structures. Still, we are far from figuring out clearly what is going on.
Talking about objective reality leads to collide, not only with what we know, but also with the pretension that all we know today is all that exists. Quantum mechanics though, gives us a blurry picture of how things work outside of our normal-sized world.
I am excited about this new reality that we are exploring and I believe that, just because things are not noticeable to our eyes, it doesn’t mean that we don’t have to look for them and the mysterious world of quantum physics is showing us how fascinating is the unknown.
Thank you 😉