Quantum Mechanics May Be Proven by Distant Quasars

Quantum Mechanics May Be Proven by Distant Quasars

MIT researchers have proposed an experiment involving the observation of distant quasars that could close a final loophole and prove our universe is governed by quantum mechanics rather than classical physics.

A theorem devised by physicist John Bell in 1964 stipulated that classic physics cannot reproduce all of the predictions of quantum mechanics. Bell's theorem, however, had three major loopholes, two of which have already been a closed. In a paper published this week in the journal "Physical Review Letters," MIT researchers have proposed an experiment that may close the final loophole and prove that our universe is governed by quantum mechanics.

The final loophole implies that a physicist running an experiment to measure a particle does not have complete free will in choosing the settings of his detector instrument, resulting in biased measurements. If that sounds far-fetched to you, that's because it is - but improbable is not impossible.

"It sounds creepy, but people realized that's a logical possibility that hasn't been closed yet," says MIT's David Kaiser, the Germeshausen Professor of the History of Science and senior lecturer in the Department of Physics. "Before we make the leap to say the equations of quantum theory tell us the world is inescapably crazy and bizarre, have we closed every conceivable logical loophole, even if they may not seem plausible in the world we know today?"

Kaiser, along with MIT postdoc Andrew Friedman and Jason Gallicchio of the University of Chicago, have proposed an experiment to close this third loophole by using distant quasars to determine a particle detector's settings. The selected quasars would be on opposite sides of the sky and thus out of causal contact for some 14 billion years - in other words, no event in the history of the universe could have affected both quasars, given their distance, the age of the universe, and how long light takes to travel.

The reasoning behind this experiment is that since each detector's setting would be determined by sources that have had no communication or shared history since the dawn of the universe, it would be impossible for them to "conspire" to give a biased measurement.

"I think it's fair to say this [loophole] is the final frontier, logically speaking, that stands between this enormously impressive accumulated experimental evidence and the interpretation of that evidence saying the world is governed by quantum mechanics," Kaiser says.

Source: MIT News

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I fear the only thing I truly understood from all this is that, regardless of the results of this experiment, it's going to be used for years to come to (dis)prove human free will. Kinda like the whole God particle thing.

I'm not sure this experiment will work. The experiment relies on the fact that the quasars have no causal link.

The problem is that even quasars on opposite sides of the observable universe ARE causally linked. How they are linked is one of the biggest mysteries of Modern Cosmology, but the fact remains that they are linked. Cosmologists went and invented the theory of Inflation just to account for this link.

If you look at something 14 billion light-years away, you're looking at something just after the big bang (since the light was emitted 14 billion years ago). We've actually done that - and we saw the CMB. The Cosmic Microwave Background. The temperature of the universe roughly 400,000 years after the big bang.

The thing is that the temperature is the almost same in every direction. That means that there has to be a causal link between areas of space that would take longer than the age of the universe to communicate with each other. And that would include any two quasars that you run this experiment are. Inflation explains the link by saying that the universe expanded faster than the speed of light for a while - apparently space itself is constrained by the universal speed limit. But the link itself remains.

(Disclaimer - I've assumed that the universe is entirely deterministic in the above post. Some of the crazier interpretations of Quantum Theory would disagree with that assumption.)

I'm just confused as to what they are actually proving here. Quantum physics exists, scientists and engineers use it all the time. There are a half-dozen scientific apparati which measure quantum effects and could only work if quantum physics is a real thing.

I love that how, the more complicated modern science becomes, the more it starts to sound like Ancient Greek philosophy.

All I got from the article was "For Science!!!" and I'm OK with that. It shows that I made the right choice in dropping engineering and pursuing Geography as a major.

The_Darkness:
I'm not sure this experiment will work. The experiment relies on the fact that the pulsars have no causal link.

But they were talking about quasars. If I understand this correctly a pulsar is a former star, a neutron star and a quasar is a galaxy with a giant black hole in the center.

nuttshell:

The_Darkness:
I'm not sure this experiment will work. The experiment relies on the fact that the pulsars have no causal link.

But they were talking about quasars. If I understand this correctly a pulsar is a former star, a neutron star and a quasar is a galaxy with a giant black hole in the center.

Fair point - I meant to say quasars, not pulsars. You wouldn't even see pulsars at that distance.

The_Darkness:
You wouldn't even see pulsars at that distance.

Ahhhh, of course! If that occured to me, I probably wouldn't even correct you...

I'm starting to understand why scientists were burned at the stake in medieval times.

Can these people put atleast a little bit of effort into making this understandable for people who haven't studied the subject for years?

SimpleThunda':
I'm starting to understand why scientists were burned at the stake in medieval times.

Can these people put atleast a little bit of effort into making this understandable for people who haven't studied the subject for years?

They do, and then Rhykker adds another layer of that effort to make it even shorter on this site. Check the original article, it takes more of its time to explain things.

That being said, there's a limit to how much you can simplify some subjects without entirely losing the content you're trying to transmit. But there's a lot of really accessible information all around the web now, you can put a bit of your own effort into it as well. I recommend The Titanium Physicists Podcast, the YouTube channel Looking Glass Universe, many episodes from Minute Physics, and the wonderful lectures Richard Feynman himself gave on quantum electrodynamics (4 parts, they're the first results here). Of course, there's a LOT of other great resources, these are just from the top of my head.

Speaking of Feynman, you might also like to watch his (older) series of conferences on The Character of Physical Law. Wonderful, brilliant stuff.

Hagi:
I fear the only thing I truly understood from all this is that, regardless of the results of this experiment, it's going to be used for years to come to (dis)prove human free will. Kinda like the whole God particle thing.

I don't believe that it can. I think that perhaps this experiment is overthinking the problem a little. It's assuming that in the endless possibilities of quantum mechanics, our choice actions are being actively influenced, as if to say that certain philosophical arguments regarding the seperation of mind and body as which has the free will and which do not are actually provable in some way using this method.

There is not something willfully manipulating us towards an end. Anything with that sort of action in mind wouldn't be so slapdash and contradictory in behavior. More than likely, the impugning of free will is down to a group of people who want very badly to point fingers at god for their own problems, which doesn't work since god reportedly gave humans the very free will that some don't believe exists.

In the end, if you have to believe in a quantum universe that everything you say or do is colored by a random interface of particles that can set you off a course in this matter, then you're making a self-fulfilling profecy, not attaining it as an understanding of a truth. I find many things in life to be absurdly and sometimes horribly predictable (in that my cynicism leads me to be less surprised about certain atrocities and actions in the world). There exists a pattern ot all things for those who will simply look.

SimpleThunda':
I'm starting to understand why scientists were burned at the stake in medieval times.

Can these people put atleast a little bit of effort into making this understandable for people who haven't studied the subject for years?

Science isn't done in english. its done in math. So its very difficult to write a precise description of sciency stuff in english. I have a science background, but even when i read i scientific paper i find it very difficult to grasp thing in english. But when u sit down and work the maths, it becomes much much easier.

The_Darkness:
I'm not sure this experiment will work. The experiment relies on the fact that the quasars have no causal link.

The problem is that even quasars on opposite sides of the observable universe ARE causally linked. How they are linked is one of the biggest mysteries of Modern Cosmology, but the fact remains that they are linked. Cosmologists went and invented the theory of Inflation just to account for this link.

If you look at something 14 billion light-years away, you're looking at something just after the big bang (since the light was emitted 14 billion years ago). We've actually done that - and we saw the CMB. The Cosmic Microwave Background. The temperature of the universe roughly 400,000 years after the big bang.

The thing is that the temperature is the almost same in every direction. That means that there has to be a causal link between areas of space that would take longer than the age of the universe to communicate with each other. And that would include any two quasars that you run this experiment are. Inflation explains the link by saying that the universe expanded faster than the speed of light for a while - apparently space itself is constrained by the universal speed limit. But the link itself remains.

(Disclaimer - I've assumed that the universe is entirely deterministic in the above post. Some of the crazier interpretations of Quantum Theory would disagree with that assumption.)

actually its pretty easy to show that two events are causally isolated. What you need to show is that the space time interval between the two have what is called a space-like interval as opposed to a time-like interval. That might sound like a lot of jargon but essentially what it means is that the two events have happened so close to on another that light doesn't have time to travel the distance.

There is something pleasing about MIT scientists wondering if some kind of cosmic or quantum event is interfering with their behaviour. Reminiscent of the tin-foil-hat-wearing hobos of Futurama. Now all they will need is some kind of quasar experiment to determine whether their interpretation of anything the detector is detecting is being interfered with.

Well, I look forward to seeing if Douglas Adams was right after all. If this works and the final loophole is closed, perhaps the universe will be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.

Perhaps it already has.

dantoddd:

The_Darkness:

SNIP

actually its pretty easy to show that two events are causally isolated. What you need to show is that the space time interval between the two have what is called a space-like interval as opposed to a time-like interval. That might sound like a lot of jargon but essentially what it means is that the two events have happened so close to on another that light doesn't have time to travel the distance.

No, I understand. The difference is that I was considering an earlier event influencing both quasars, rather than one quasar influencing the other...

But you're probably right, that they're talking about one quasar influencing the other. The experiment makes sense from that perspective.

Although I did think that we'd already done that experiment on Earth, with well timed measurements such that even information travelling at lightspeed couldn't get from one event to the other. Still, repeating the experiment with quasars would be impressive.

FalloutJack:

Hagi:
I fear the only thing I truly understood from all this is that, regardless of the results of this experiment, it's going to be used for years to come to (dis)prove human free will. Kinda like the whole God particle thing.

I don't believe that it can. I think that perhaps this experiment is overthinking the problem a little. It's assuming that in the endless possibilities of quantum mechanics, our choice actions are being actively influenced, as if to say that certain philosophical arguments regarding the seperation of mind and body as which has the free will and which do not are actually provable in some way using this method.

There is not something willfully manipulating us towards an end. Anything with that sort of action in mind wouldn't be so slapdash and contradictory in behavior. More than likely, the impugning of free will is down to a group of people who want very badly to point fingers at god for their own problems, which doesn't work since god reportedly gave humans the very free will that some don't believe exists.

In the end, if you have to believe in a quantum universe that everything you say or do is colored by a random interface of particles that can set you off a course in this matter, then you're making a self-fulfilling profecy, not attaining it as an understanding of a truth. I find many things in life to be absurdly and sometimes horribly predictable (in that my cynicism leads me to be less surprised about certain atrocities and actions in the world). There exists a pattern ot all things for those who will simply look.

I'm not saying that this experiment is out to prove anything regarding free will. I am saying that a lot of people reading about this experiment will assume that it does, like the whole god particle thing I mentioned (as in, people reading about the Higgs Boson believing it quantifies as proof for the existence of god, which it doesn't have anything to do with).

Hagi:

I'm not saying that this experiment is out to prove anything regarding free will. I am saying that a lot of people reading about this experiment will assume that it does, like the whole god particle thing I mentioned (as in, people reading about the Higgs Boson believing it quantifies as proof for the existence of god, which it doesn't have anything to do with).

Oh. Well, I too tend to overthink things. It happens.

An interesting discovery, and one that does raise some questions. There are some things I would like to note, though: Are we sure the universe is less than 14 billion years old? Have we actually seen and measured the radioactive decay, or whatever scientists use to measure age that far out, of the end of existence? Also, wormholes seem to have the ability to bend space, allowing for a loophole in the speed of light, which might create conduits through which such information is passed. It does raise another strange question, though: How can a vacuum be bent? Something that also bothers me about modern physics is that the Higgs-Boson particle suggests the graviton interpretation is correct, but how do we reconcile that with discoveries that support the Coopenhaagen interpretation, like time dilation, electron wavelength breakdown and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle?

retsupurae yahtsee:
An interesting discovery, and one that does raise some questions. There are some things I would like to note, though: Are we sure the universe is less than 14 billion years old? Have we actually seen and measured the radioactive decay, or whatever scientists use to measure age that far out, of the end of existence? Also, wormholes seem to have the ability to bend space, allowing for a loophole in the speed of light, which might create conduits through which such information is passed. It does raise another strange question, though: How can a vacuum be bent? Something that also bothers me about modern physics is that the Higgs-Boson particle suggests the graviton interpretation is correct, but how do we reconcile that with discoveries that support the Coopenhaagen interpretation, like time dilation, electron wavelength breakdown and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle?

yes, were pretty certain the universe in its current incarnation is roughly 13.8 bn years old. The of the universe comes from the ACDM model which is fairly well understood and evidenced, and it does take into consideration everything you've highlighted and much much more.

Don't worry physicists are pretty thorough. when they are not, they get called out pretty quickly. the fact that this paper got into the number two physics journal in the world means its pretty solid.

 

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