**The full List Of Post / Table Of Content**

**N.B. another review on the same book, written by a Nobel Prize Laureate in Physics.**

**Foreword**

This Foreword was prompted by publication a new book about quantum mechanics.

I love reading Lee Smolin, but I'm not going to read

*this*book.
In this book at first he criticizes all
existing interpretations of quantum mechanics, and then he promotes his own.
However, I prefer sticking to the interpretation which satisfies the Occam's
razor test (and described in the series of my posts).

There are two major facts about quantum
mechanics everybody needs to know

The first one is that quantum mechanics
works.

The second one is that quantum mechanics
is not a complete theory – that is why there are several interpretations of

*why*it works.
The third fact, however, the fact of the
matter is that this situation is not the first, not the only, and I'm pretty
sure not the last one in physics and in science in general when a working
theory exists, but the reasons for why it works aren’t clear and different
factions of scientific community hold different views on that matter.

For example, more than 2000 years ago the
world knew only a few true physical theories – one of those was the Archimedes’
theory of a lever. The lever has been known for thousands of years before
Archimedes, but he was the first one who gave a detailed mathematical description of how it works.
But only a couple of thousands of years later physicists could explain why
Archimedes’ theory worked.

This maybe is not the perfect example, but
it works as an illustration.

Physics is not alone, other sciences also
have similar examples: for example, no one denies evolution, species do evolve.
But the theory of evolution, that one that answers the question why do species
evolve – is a different story; Darwinism is not the only one, there are, or at least, there
were alternatives.

So, quantum theory works, we know how to
use it to describe quantum world, but we do not know why it works. And the only
reason why so many physicists are still bothered by the latter fact is that
quantum theory is very different from clear and logical classical mechanics.

So far, all attempts to fit quantum theory
in the same logical frame that works for classical mechanics have failed.

Most physicists believe that because a
classical, i.e. macroscopic, world represents a composition of a large number
of quantum, i.e. microscopic, worlds, the logical and mathematical description
of both worlds must be connected in a clear and logical way – classical laws
must be “derived” from quantum laws, and quantum laws must be “derived” from
classical laws.

Here we already run into a debate –
because different scholars have a different meaning for term “derived”.

At the dawn of the quantum era, to
demonstrate how different quantum mechanics is from classical mechanics
physicists invented paradoxes. One of such well-known paradoxes was
“Schrödinger’s cat”, and another one “EPR paradox”.

What readers need to understand that a
hundred years ago those paradoxes played an important role as discussion
generators. But today, a hundred years later, we have a much better
understanding of what works and what does not work in quantum mechanics,
including the meaning of those old paradoxes. A historian may keep uncovering
more and more nuances in those hundred-year-old discussions. But a physicist
needs to focus on the current understanding.

And again, the history of science knows
very similar situations, when for many years a paradox was a nucleus of many
heated discussions, but was resolved and now it has only historical value.

My favorite paradox of such type is Zeno’s paradox that says that a runner cannot ever run a mile
(the Dichotomy paradox). Now we know that the
sum of an infinitely many terms can have a finite value.

In conclusion, we know that quantum
mechanics is very different from classical mechanics, we know that we don’t
know why a quantum theory works, and that realization leads to different
theories about a quantum theory, known as interpretations. How do we select
that one which we like the most? Everyone has a different approach. I always
use the Occam's razor and select an explanation which
requires the least amount of reasoning, the smallest number of assumptions, and
the most natural assumptions.

Such interpretation of quantum mechanics
exists. And in the series of post on this page I tried to
offer a description of this interpretation and explain why this interpretation
is the best one – so far.

**P.S. This post is one of the posts the origins of quantum mechanics:**

**The Core Assumption of Every Known Single-Photon Experiment Is Wrong, Freeing The Schrödinger's Cat I (has an additional discussion of the general methodology of science);**

**Freeing The Schrödinger's Cat II**; The Uncertainty Principle; The Origins of Quantum Mechanics, and Part II of this book review.
From my first encounter with Quantum Mechanics I was
fascinated by it.

I also immediately “knew”, or rather was convinced, that
Quantum Mechanics was, and still is, not a theory, but a “cooking recipe”.

A mathematically and conceptually complicated, sometimes counter-intuitive, but just a recipe: the prescription of actions found via a
trial and error, exactly like cooking.

As a soon-to-be theoretical physicist (who had not idea that
later in life would switched
to education), I was convinced that since the world is a united undivided
space-time continuum filled up with matter in the form of moving objects and
changing fields, there has to be one united undivided universal theory
describing the whole world. When a scientist would need to describe a specific
subset of natural phenomena, that universal theory would be used in a
simplified form of a specific theory the best suited for that type of
phenomena.

For example, to describe the mechanical motion of a small
number of slow moving objects one would use the Newtonian Mechanics. But the
Newtonian Mechanics represents a special case of the Relativistic Mechanics;
the special case which is described by the equations derived as a mathematical
limit of the equations for the Relativistic Mechanics when the speed of the
motion of all objects is much lower than the speed of light in vacuum.

Physicists have established similar relationships between the
Newtonian Mechanics and the laws of Thermodynamics and Gas Laws; between the
Newtonian Mechanics the Navier-Stokes equations describing the motion of
fluids; between the General Theory of Relativity and Special Theory of
Relativity.

The Quantum Mechanics, as a highly successful recipe, formally includes a transition from the laws of Quantum Mechanics (e.g. in the form of the Schrödinger
equation) to the Newtonian Mechanics (e.g. in the form of the Newton's laws). In a way we can say that the Quantum Mechanics explains

*why*Newton's laws work. But there is no yet a commonly accepted theory which explains why the Quantum Mechanics works. There are only possible interpretations of that.
After getting an A for my Quantum Mechanics course, I did
not lose the interest to the fundamentals of the Quantum Mechanics. In time, I
read four or five more standard textbooks on the Quantum Mechanics, and at least as
many books on the philosophy and fundamental principles of it (I even posted a
couple of pieces of my own; one on the Heisenberg Principle,
and another one on Quantum
Entanglement).

The recent book on the matter “What Is Real?” by Dr. Adam
Becker attracted my attention by good reviews, so I purchased it.

When I started to read it (and I am still in the process –
unfortunately, my reading time is not as available as I would wish), I knew I
would not learn much new on the origins and philosophy of the Quantum
Mechanics. But I am always eager to learn something new on the history of the
scientific battles between different scholars, different groups of scientists, which
happens a lot, even in
physics.

People seem to think that science is something like the
wisdom inscribed in tablets, and scientists just dig them out and reveal to the
public as a discovery. In reality, the practice of science is not much
different from all other human practices (think of acting, for example); it is
developed as the result of a constant struggle between different groups with
opposing interests (funds, fame). The only difference between science and other
human practices is that in science people have a procedure which eventually
allows to differentiate between “winners” and “losers” (BTW: that procedure is called an
“experiment”).

Scientists are human, and they act like all humans do – in
the best interests of their own.

If a
scientist has a strong opinion about something, his/her brain just rejects any
ideas which do not fit his/her views. That is why Max Plank said: “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its
opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents
eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

How true, how true.

And BTW, many scientists simply “don't know what they
do”. I mean they do know what project they work on, the goals of that project, what
they want to achieve. But if you ask them about a big picture, if you ask what is
science and how does their project fit in science in general, you don't get an articulate answer, because most scientists simply don't think about things like
that. “What do you do? Science. What is science? Hmmm … So, you don’t know what
you do? Hmmm …” No wonder, scientists cannot clearly explain the difference between science and religion, and STEM education is in a state of struggle.

There is a common misunderstanding that the motivation for a scientist to do science is curiosity. First, no one, even a scientists needs curiosity to achieve success in life. In science, the NSF - the most important funding agency - does not value curiosity, it values appeal and appearance. Curiosity is just a psychological predisposition to trying things. It is like hunger. You feel hunger, you start looking for food. But maybe in time you will figure out that making food also can make you rich and famous, and you become a chef. Same in science; the true locomotive of sciences (read, scientists) is the two big Fs - Fame, and Funds.

While growing up they - future scientists - got fascinated by something. Maybe it was a book, a parent, a friend, a teacher, a movie, or something else which influenced them, but the main reason they started doing science is just they liked it and they were good at it. One thing led to another and here they are, having a PhD. But the majority of scientists are practitioners, they are practicing in the field of their science and they don't usually think about the philosophical basis or fundamental principles of the science they do. They just have no time and taste for that.

There is a common misunderstanding that the motivation for a scientist to do science is curiosity. First, no one, even a scientists needs curiosity to achieve success in life. In science, the NSF - the most important funding agency - does not value curiosity, it values appeal and appearance. Curiosity is just a psychological predisposition to trying things. It is like hunger. You feel hunger, you start looking for food. But maybe in time you will figure out that making food also can make you rich and famous, and you become a chef. Same in science; the true locomotive of sciences (read, scientists) is the two big Fs - Fame, and Funds.

While growing up they - future scientists - got fascinated by something. Maybe it was a book, a parent, a friend, a teacher, a movie, or something else which influenced them, but the main reason they started doing science is just they liked it and they were good at it. One thing led to another and here they are, having a PhD. But the majority of scientists are practitioners, they are practicing in the field of their science and they don't usually think about the philosophical basis or fundamental principles of the science they do. They just have no time and taste for that.

The Dr.
Adam Becker’s book is promised to describe some examples of the battle between
different groups of physicists about the origins of the Quantum Mechanics.

But
immediately after starting reading the book, I ran into multiple examples of
contradictory or illogical statements. This fact has prompted me to write this
piece. I hope, my further reading will inspire me for my further writing (this
is why I called this one “Part I/one”).

I would
like to start from these two quotes: “And one position in that debate – held by
the majority of physicists and purportedly by Bohr – has continually denied the
very terms of the debate itself” (page 5). “The popularity of this attitude to
quantum physics is surprising” (page 6).

These
statements indicate that Dr. Becker is simply not familiar with the views beyond
the ones represented by English-speaking writers. For example, in all Russian
textbooks on the Quantum Mechanics the debate has been settled; the quantum world
is real, it can and has to be described in the terms of the observable
variables, there is still though a technical debate on how to reconcile the
quantum (microscopic) world description (i.e. the Quantum Mechanics) with the human
(macroscopic) world description (i.e. the Newtonian Mechanics).

In Russia,
physics is based on a specific philosophy of science, called Materialism, and
the philosophy described by Dr. Becker is called Positivism and deemed wrong
(for better or worse – that is not the topic of this piece). So, what Dr.
Becker should have written is “The popularity of this attitude to quantum
physics

*in the English-speaking sciences*is surprising” (with the exception of David Bohm).
Since the “Introduction”
Dr. Becker uses statements which already depend on a specific interpretation of
Quantum Mechanics, however, without mentioning that fact.

For example, he writes: “The atom doesn’t split, it doesn’t
take one path and then the other – it travels down both paths, simultaneously”
(page I/one). This description represents only one of possible interpretations
of the motion of a quantum particle discussed in the physics world. Among other interpretations, there is one, namely, a statistical interpretation, which states that an atom takes
one and only one path; but another atom in the same situation may take a
different path, and there is math which tells us the chances for each path to
be taken. I am not saying that the statistical interpretation is better (it
is), I just want to stress that the assertion that an atom “travels down both
paths, simultaneously”, describes the author's point of view, and not the
only possible point of view, but the readers are led to believe that other
points of view do not exists. And that is on page I/one of the “Introduction”.

The view that when a quantum particle is presented with two
paths to travel, it “doesn’t split, it doesn’t take one path and then the other
– it travels down both paths, simultaneously” is very common for scientists who
exercise the philosophy of Positivism.

This view, however, leads to a very strange world picture,
which, from my point of view, cannot be correct.

What if a quantum particle is presented with three paths to
travel, or four, of five, or seven thousand thirty-six? The same logic forces
us to say that it “doesn’t split – it travels down seven thousand thirty-six
paths, simultaneously”. What if there are no physical obstruction at all and a
quantum particle can travel in any direction using any – meaning, all! – path(s)?
In that case, it “doesn’t split – it travels

*all*paths, simultaneously”. Meaning, it is smeared all over the universe. So, it is not a particle any more, but an actual physical field. And that view should be applied to*all*existing particles at the same time, which now are all fields smeared all over the universe. This view may exist (“a wave function is a real physical field”). However, using this view is hard to explain how a single electron makes a spot on a photo-plate when it collides with the plate (and many more experiments). This discussion would require to invent a process similar to a “collapse of a wave function” but applied to an actual physical field (now, the field is all over the universe, and a fraction of a second later, it is only at this point). And it would be even harder to explain how this picture leads to the Newtonian description of our macroscopic world. It is just easier to choose a different interpretation, namely, the statistical one; and the Occam's Razor principle says, if it’s easier, it’s better, so – use that one.
It also automatically answers the question: “Why aren’t our
keys ever in two places at once?” (page 2). Because nothing is; not keys, not
stars, not atoms, not electrons – nothing.

I do understand the need of an author to make some
impressive statements or ask mysterious questions, but a scientific book should
not mislead readers.

A human mind is very powerful, it can imagine things which
do not exist in nature, like a Unicorn, or a Pegusas, or a Griffin, etc. A
human mind can also generate questions which make no sense, for example “How
old is the first Centaurs?”, or “Who
won the Super Bowl on Mars in 1234 AC?”

Asking a question which make no sense is a nonsense.

An example of such nonsense is asking: “where an electron is”
(page 16) without having described the specific physical situation. Asking
“Where an electron is in a Hydrogen atom” is a nonsense. Asking “Where an
electron is when it hits a photo-plate” is a legitimate question.

The discussion of the meaning of “measurement” (page17)
without bringing into it different interpretations of the Quantum Mechanics is
pointless, because various interpretations of the Quantum Mechanics differ by the
very definition of “measurement”.

On page 17 Dr. Becker writes: “The predictions of quantum
physics are generally in terms of probabilities, not certainties. And that’s
strange…”. Well, using probabilities may seem strange for a regular person, but
it definitely cannot be seen as strange for a scientist. The fact that one
probabilistic function (e.g. a wave function) is defined by a deterministic
equation (e.g. Schrödinger equation) is not new and no different from other
functions and equations
used in physics for describing probabilistic behavior (e.g.
N-particle distribution function, for which the time evolution is governed by
the Liouville equation).

Probability
is as the part of physics as the determinism.

What
drastically separates the Quantum Mechanics from any other probabilistic
theories, is not the fact that we have to calculate probabilities of different
events, but the fact that we cannot use any equation which describes
probabilities per se, which tells us how to calculate those probabilities on
their own. Instead, we have to calculate a wave-function first, only then we
can find the probabilities we need.

The
recipe (which has several but mathematically equivalent forms) is simple: 1. Guess the Hamiltonian for your
system (there are some hints for that); 2. Solve the Schrödinger equation for
eigenstates (does not matter what they are, it’s just math); 3. Calculate the
amplitudes (does not matter what they are, it’s just math) of the eigenstates for a wave-function of your choice, including
their time evolution, if you want; and

*then*4. Calculate squares of the absolute values of those amplitudes (just some more math) – the resulting numbers will give you the probabilities you are looking for.
Why?

Why
do we have to use a wave-function, but not actual probabilities?

Why
does the universe make us using wave-functions instead of actual probabilities
in the first place?

Here is where scientists get divided into different
groups.

Some just ignore the question or say that this question does not make sense, so, “shut
up and calculate”.

Some say that this question makes sense, but it is not worth spending time on searching for the answer, or we will never
be able to find the answer to it so, again, just “shut up and calculate”.

And some are still trying to find the answer to this
question – those people represent the tiny fraction of all scientists, but those
are the people who will eventually make a breakthrough in quantum physics.

**This feature of the Quantum Mechanism, i.e. the need for the use of a wave-function instead of probabilities, is the root of**(go ahead and just Google “mysteries of Quantum Mechanics”).

*all*mysteries of the Quantum Mechanics
Finally let's talk about the main topic of this piece,
i.e. the “Schrodinger’s Cat” thought experiment.

I have read many interpretations of that experiment.
If I wanted to discuss the history of physics, probably, I would have to learn
German and then read the original paper to make my own interpretation of what Schrödinger
wanted to say. However, since we talk about the physics behind that experiment,
we don’t have to go through the whole ninety-year old discussion. All we need
is the description of the experiment, and then we can make our own
interpretation, based on our own contemporary version of the meaning of the Quantum
Mechanics.

I start from the copy of the description of the
experiment provided by doctor Becker in his book.

“Schrödinger imagined putting a cat in a box along
with the sealed glass vial of cyanide, with a small hammer hanging or the
vile. The hammer, in turn, would be
connected to a Geiger counter, which detects radioactivity, and that counter
will be pointed at a tiny lump of slightly radioactive metal.” (page 3).

I am, as we all are, an external observer who can open
the box and look at the cat and make a conclusion if the cat is dead, or if the
cat is alive. First let's make sure that the cat can live as long as we need it,
so, the box also has installed inside it all the facilities required to keep
the cat alive. The only reason for the cat to be dead is if the hammer breaks
the vial with poison, and the only reason for that to happen is if a Geiger
counter registers a particle, and the only reason for that to happen is if radioactive
metal emits that particle. For a regular person, this whole setup looks pretty
much ludicrous already, so we can make it as ludicrous as we want to, if it
helps to achieve our goal, which is to understand what is happening inside the
box. So, let’s imagine that we have not just one but many, thousands, millions,
maybe even billions of identical boxes with identical cats waiting for their
fate. We created all those boxes at exactly same time, we waited exactly
same time period, and we opened all the boxes at exactly same instant. Since, when
we open all the boxes and look at all the cats, in every single box every
single cat can be only dead or alive, all we can see is:

1. All cats are alive.

or

or

2. All cats are dead.

or

3. Some cats are alive and others are dead.

If all cats are alive the best explanation is that we
made a mistake and instead of using the radioactive metal we placed some stable
material.

If all cats are dead the best explanation is that we
didn't have enough boxes, or the radioactive metal had much higher
radioactivity then we thought.

But since it is our thought experiment, we can imagine
that we are smart enough or lucky enough to have the right number of boxes and
the right type of the radioactive metal, so once we open all the boxes, what we
see is that some cats indeed are alive and some cats indeed are dead.

In order to make this conclusion about what we would
see if our thought experiment would actually happen, all we need to know is
that

*within a specific time interval a radioactive metal*. Based on this property of a radioactive metal we can say that, indeed, every cat inside each box__may or may not__emit a particle*. However, there is simply*__may or may not__be alive or dead__no logical reason__to make a statement that until the box was opened__a cat inside it is dead-and-alive at the same time____.__
“No logical reason” does not mean “no reason at all”;
such a reason, for example, could be “I just want it to be”.

Let's assume for the moment that all cats in all boxes
were in a state of dead-and-alive right until we opened the doors. Let’s assume
that it was the action of opening the door of each box which has led to some
cats become dead, and for some cats remain alive. In that case, all the alive
cats would look exactly the same – happy. But also, all the dead cats would
look exactly the same, with no sign of any deterioration. My common sense and
everyday experience doesn't believe in that picture. My common sense and
everyday experience says that different cats in different boxes would die at different
time (right after a radioactive particle left the metal and entered the
counter), so when all boxes are opened, we could see one cat that died a long
time ago, and another cat that just recently passed away. The time of death
would be based on the time when the vile with the poison was broken, which was
based on the time when the counter registered a particle, which was based on the time
when the radioactive metal emitted that particle via radioactivity decay.

Counting the number of dead and alive cats, and
going back to an experiment with a single box, we could make a good approximation
of the probability for finding a cat dead or alive when only one box is to be
opened. In the experiment with only one box, all we can say is:

1. A cat inside a box is either alive or dead, and before
we open the box there is no way to know if the cat is alive or dead.

2. There is a specific instant in time before which a cat inside a box is alive, and after which the cat is dead, but there is no way to predict the value of that instant (which, in principle, includes such values as "always" and "never").

3. A cat inside a box may die, and if that happens, when we open a box we will see a dead cat, and we may be able to find out how long the cat was dead before a box was opened (hence, when after the start of the experiment the cat died), but before we open the box we will never be able to predict when exactly the cat would die.

3. A cat inside a box may die, and if that happens, when we open a box we will see a dead cat, and we may be able to find out how long the cat was dead before a box was opened (hence, when after the start of the experiment the cat died), but before we open the box we will never be able to predict when exactly the cat would die.

4. Using multiple experiments we may be able to find
the chance of finding the cat alive (or the time distribution of the moments when the cat becomes dead).

Of course, Schrödinger used a cat just for a dramatic
effect – a death-or-life situation definitely sharpens the argumentation of the
case.

But it does not have to be a cat. Instead of a vial
and a cat one could use a timer with a button pushed by a falling hammer. The
physical behavior of the system would not change. It still would describe the
same act of an interaction between a microscopic and a macroscopic systems (a.k.a. “measurement”).

My interpretation of the “Schrödinger’s Cat” thought
experiment implicates that statement: “the subatomic particles in the metal…
don’t know whether they should stay or they should go. So, they do both” (page
3) is wrong (or at least depends on a

*specific*interpretation of the Quantum Mechanics, hence, inaccurate). Statistical interpretation of the Quantum Mechanics paints a much simpler, hence less dramatic, but hence clearer, hence more practical, hence more workable, picture, i.e. the subatomic particles in the metal remain intact until they, independently from each other, at the moment which may be different for different particles, at the moment which is intrinsically not predictable, “go”. A patient and accurate experimenter, though, can find out (with a reasonable certainty) what is a chance for a given particle “to go” (during a given time interval).
I hope that now all the “cat killing” has finally come
to the logical end.

Cats, timers, particles, any existing objects, cannot “take
two paths at the same time”, or “stay and go simultaneously”. They can do one

*or*another; for each choice, there is a specific probability of that to happen; that probability cannot be found on its own but requires calculating a weird and strangely behaved wave-function; no one knows why.
After lots of cat killing I would like to finish on a
positive note.

This piece has been the result of reading of the first
twenty pages of the book. I am looking forward for reading more. I hope that as
a historian of physics Dr. Becker will be better than as a philosopher of
physics.

The second post in this series:

The second post in this series:

**Disclaimer**

The first third of this piece was written at a car dealership
while waiting for an oil change and stuff. The second third of it was written in
a traffic using a voice recognition app. Only the last third was written during a relatively stable part of a day with a manageable number of interruptions. As a person with little patience who
was eager to publish this post, I may have left some typos in the text. Please,
feel free to inform me of such, if you find any.

Thank you.

Dr. Valentin Voroshilov

I am perfectly aware of the fact that no peer-reviewed magazine will publish my piece: my writing style is too loose, and I have no citations. Well, I do, on the book I review, but the format is wrong, and other references are missing. Although, I do not really understand why does one need to explicitly show the
references
which are
already
well-known and openly available
(Google-able), like "my" Max Plank's quote. Anyway, you if
enjoyed
the reading, please, feel free to share it with your colleagues. But maybe even more reason to share would be if you hated what you read ("I found such a piece ..., you should definitely check it").

**Appendix**

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