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Don to John

Aug 24, 1993 08:00 AM
by Donald DeGracia

About Determinism and randomness:

<Recent physical experiments have proven that Reality follows the
statistical viewpoint of QM.  >

I address this to a minor extant in my book in Chapter 6.  Otherwise I
would suggest being careful to jump to conclusions here.  Back in the
1930s everyone thought that von Neuman's proof was the the end all be
all of quantum mechanics.  Then along came a number of theorists, most
notably J.S.  Bell (who, interestingly enough had a background in
accelerator design - very practical, not the usualy theorist!) who
changed the whole landscape of the debate.  My sense of this issue is
that we are dealing with axiomatic systems.  These can change when the
axioms change or get challenged, a situation much like the advent of
noneuclidean geometry from challenging Euclid's 5th postulate.  And as
well, the expereimental evidence for this situation is not clear cut.
My understanding is that there are a number of technical difficulties
to etting accurate measurements and interpretations of these
expereiments.  The best experiments to date use the polarization of
light beams through rotating filters and measuring the correlataions of
the resulting polarization.  I know that a guy named Shimony is big in
this area and he's the one I quote in my book.  This is one area that
is ambiguous enough that I kind of sit on the edge of my chair and wait
for new developments instead of trying to draw conclusions.  Also, I've
seen the mathematical arguements behind the whole issue of the
correlations, including the Bell theorem, and its pretty obscure stuff.
So, I don't know.  This area borders on the speculative too much for my
taste.  Still, there are implications here of great interest.  There is
no question that the determinism that LaPlace envisioned is a fantasy
of the past.  However, to conclude that randomness is a fundamental
feature of nature still doesn't seem reasonable to me.  Interesting,
even in Phillips' book ESP of Quarks, he interprets Besant and
Leadbeater's observations in terms of the Uncertainty Principle.  So
Phillips at least apparently feels a need to stick to accepted
interpretations of quantum mechanics.

<Regarding the "Reality" of virtual particles...You cannot explain
reality without them.>

No question that quantum chromodynamics and electrodynamics work.  And
the idea of virtual particles is quite reasonable and functional.


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