Monday, January 30, 2023

Why More Physicists Are Starting to Think Space and Time Are ‘Illusions’

Picture a perfectly calm, glassy sea on a windless day. Now ask yourself, how can such a plane be produced by overlaying two individual wave patterns? One possibility is that superimposing two completely flat surfaces results again in a completely level outcome. But another possibility that might produce a flat surface is if two identical wave patterns shifted by half an oscillation cycle were to be superimposed on one another, so that the wave crests of one pattern annihilate the wave troughs of the other one and vice versa. If we just observed the glassy ocean, regarding it as the result of two swells combined, there would be no way for us to find out about the patterns of the individual swells. What sounds perfectly ordinary when we talk about waves has the most bizarre consequences when applied to competing realities. If your neighbor told you she had two cats, one live cat and a dead one, this would imply that either the first cat or the second one is dead and that the remaining cat, respectively, is alive—it would be a strange and morbid way of describing one’s pets, and you may not know which one of them is the lucky one, but you would get the neighbor’s drift. Not so in the quantum world. In quantum mechanics, the very same statement implies that the two cats are merged in a superposition of cases, including the first cat being alive and the second one dead and the first cat being dead while the second one lives, but also possibilities where both cats are half alive and half dead, or the first cat is one-third alive, while the second feline adds the missing two-thirds of life. In a quantum pair of cats, the fates and conditions of the individual animals get dissolved entirely in the state of the whole. Likewise, in a quantum universe, there are no individual objects. All that exists is merged into a single “One.”

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