1

A Quantum Experiment Suggests There’s No Such Thing As Objective Reality

| MIT Technology Review

Physicists have long suspected that quantum mechanics allows two observers to experience different, conflicting realities. Now they’ve performed the first experiment that proves it.

Back in 1961, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Eugene Wigner outlined a thought experiment that demonstrated one of the lesser-known paradoxes of quantum mechanics. The experiment shows how the strange nature of the universe allows two observers—say, Wigner and Wigner’s friend—to experience different realities.

Since then, physicists have used the “Wigner’s Friend” thought experiment to explore the nature of measurement and to argue over whether objective facts can exist. That’s important because scientists carry out experiments to establish objective facts. But if they experience different realities, the argument goes, how can they agree on what these facts might be?

That’s provided some entertaining fodder for after-dinner conversation, but Wigner’s thought experiment has never been more than that—just a thought experiment.

Last year, however, physicists noticed that recent advances in quantum technologies have made it possible to reproduce the Wigner’s Friend test in a real experiment. In other words, it ought to be possible to create different realities and compare them in the lab to find out whether they can be reconciled.

And today, Massimiliano Proietti at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and a few colleagues say they have performed this experiment for the first time: they have created different realities and compared them. Their conclusion is that Wigner was correct—these realities can be made irreconcilable so that it is impossible to agree on objective facts about an experiment.

Wigner’s original thought experiment is straightforward in principle. It begins with a single polarized photon that, when measured, can have either a horizontal polarization or a vertical polarization. But before the measurement, according to the laws of quantum mechanics, the photon exists in both polarization states at the same time—a so-called superposition.

Wigner imagined a friend in a different lab measuring the state of this photon and storing the result, while Wigner observed from afar. Wigner has no information about his friend’s measurement and so is forced to assume that the photon and the measurement of it are in a superposition of all possible outcomes of the experiment.

Wigner can even perform an experiment to determine whether this superposition exists or not. This is a kind of interference experiment showing that the photon and the measurement are indeed in a superposition.

From Wigner’s point of view, this is a “fact”—the superposition exists. And this fact suggests that a measurement cannot have taken place.

But this is in stark contrast to the point of view of the friend, who has indeed measured the photon’s polarization and recorded it. The friend can even call Wigner and say the measurement has been done (provided the outcome is not revealed).

So the two realities are at odds with each other. “This calls into question the objective status of the facts established by the two observers,” say Proietti and co.

That’s the theory, but last year Caslav Brukner, at the University of Vienna in Austria, came up with a way to re-create the Wigner’s Friend experiment in the lab by means of techniques involving the entanglement of many particles at the same time.

The breakthrough that Proietti and co have made is to carry this out. “In a state-of-the-art 6-photon experiment, we realize this extended Wigner’s friend scenario,” they say.

They use these six entangled photons to create two alternate realities—one representing Wigner and one representing Wigner’s friend. Wigner’s friend measures the polarization of a photon and stores the result. Wigner then performs an interference measurement to determine if the measurement and the photon are in a superposition.

The experiment produces an unambiguous result. It turns out that both realities can coexist even though they produce irreconcilable outcomes, just as Wigner predicted.

That raises some fascinating questions that are forcing physicists to reconsider the nature of reality.

The idea that observers can ultimately reconcile their measurements of some kind of fundamental reality is based on several assumptions. The first is that universal facts actually exist and that observers can agree on them.

But there are other assumptions too. One is that observers have the freedom to make whatever observations they want. And another is that the choices one observer make do not influence the choices other observers make—an assumption that physicists call locality.

If there is an objective reality that everyone can agree on, then these assumptions all hold.

But Proietti and co’s result suggests that objective reality does not exist. In other words, the experiment suggests that one or more of the assumptions—the idea that there is a reality we can agree on, the idea that we have freedom of choice, or the idea of locality—must be wrong.

Of course, there is another way out for those hanging on to the conventional view of reality. This is that there is some other loophole that the experimenters have overlooked. Indeed, physicists have tried to close loopholes in similar experiments for years, although they concede that it may never be possible to close them all.

Nevertheless, the work has important implications for the work of scientists. “The scientific method relies on facts, established through repeated measurements and agreed upon universally, independently of who observed them,” say Proietti and co. And yet in the same paper, they undermine this idea, perhaps fatally.

The next step is to go further: to construct experiments creating increasingly bizarre alternate realities that cannot be reconciled. Where this will take us is anybody’s guess. But Wigner, and his friend, would surely not be surprised.

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1902.05080 : Experimental Rejection of Observer-Independence in the Quantum World

By Emerging Technology from the arXiv

Emerging Technology from the arXiv covers the latest ideas and technologies that appear on the Physics arXiv preprint server. It is part of the Physics arXiv Blog. Email: KentuckyFC@arxivblog.com




Scientists Prove People Experience Different Realities

I’m fascinated by news this past month of exciting results from a quantum physics experiment that according to the MIT Technology Review appears to provide evidence that two people can observe the exact same event, see two different things happen, and both be correct.

Observers Witness the Same Event Differently

Physicists at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh succeeded in bringing a classic Gedankenexperiment (thought experiment) out of the realm of pure conjecture and into the real, physical world of a physics laboratory.  The thought experiment requires two people to observe one single photon–which is a quantum, or indivisible, unit of light.  Quantum particles can behave as either particles, or as waves, settling into one state or the other (particle or wave) at the precise moment it is observed.  All the rest of the time when the particle is not being observed by someone, it exists in a ‘superposition of states’ in which it can be considered to be simultaneously both ‘particle’ and ‘wave.’  When a second person is unaware of the first person’s observational measurement, this thought experiment proposes that the second person who is unaware of the first person’s measurement might be able to to confirm that the photon still exists in a quantum superposition (undecided) state.

Scientists including Caslav Brukner at University of Vienna in Austria and Massimiliano Proietti at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh took this experimental concept and created an experimental apparatus involving lasers, beam splitters, and six photons to be measured by various equipment representing the role of the two observers.  Preliminary results appear to provide real evidence that within quantum physics, our assumption of shared objective reality may be inaccurate.

How Nature Operates

Welcome to the new Quantum Age, featuring quantum logic!  With this new physics experiment supporting the idea that two people can observe the same event, see two different things happen, and both be correct, we are catching glimpses of the way Nature operates.  In Nature, we witness such things as:  instantaneous species mutation to the most advantageous possible adaptation, and plants routinely performing photosynthesis at more than 90% efficiency.  Lactose-intolerant organisms have been observed to adapt to a new lactose-based food source when it was the only one available, by making an evolutionary leap in one generation.  All photosynthesizing plants are performing miraculously efficient feats of storing energy from incoming photons, far beyond any human photovoltaic technologies.

When viewing the way so many natural systems seem able to ‘jump to the best reality,’ I can’t help feeling that we’re witnessing nothing less than some kind of deeper, hidden underlying awareness at work–far beyond what materialists might claim to be in charge.  Philosophers who share my sense that we are witnessing some kind of optimalism at work include Nicholas Rescher, author of a book on this topic called Axiogenesis.  I enjoy taking conscious part in this evolution by consistently asking, “How good can it get?”

The Second Quantum Revolution

I predict that we are now at the dawn of witnessing so-called ‘quantum phenomena’ moving out of the so-called ‘quantum realm’ ever increasingly in view in our everyday macroscopic lives.

When I gave a talk for Marin Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) this past month before having seen news of this experiment, I mentioned the famous EPR paper, as well as Wigner’s Friend, Quantum Zeno Effect and EPR steering–but where all of this gains traction and significance is in the context that we are now officially entering the “second quantum revolution” in which macro-scale quantum technology is being created now.  This new quantum technological race will feature engineering devices bringing ‘quantum scale’ phenomena into the macroscopic realm for applications in computing, communication, encryption and more. Macroscopic quantum systems have been developed recently in laboratories around the world, and with such fierce competition, we’ll soon be seeing astonishing breakthroughs, such as entangled diamonds.

Mandela Effect, Reality Shifts, and No Objective Reality

Physicists involved with this recent experiment, Massimiliano Proietti and his colleagues, state that, “The scientific method relies on facts, established through repeated measurements and agreed upon universally, independently of who observed them.”  Yet we are now glimpsing some of the first clear evidence that such assumptions can be proven false.  We are starting to see that the physicist Eugene Wigner’s idea that two scientists might have two different experiences while witnessing the same event appears to be proving to be true.

News of these experimental results is validating for the work I’ve been doing these past 20 years… and very exciting in terms of the implications for how humans can truly address all seemingly ‘impossible’ problems and situations–of every size, shape, and variety!  After 20 years of waiting for such an announcement, I’m pleased to see these experimental results that provide validation that we can expect to sometimes witness alternate histories from what others observe.  When we recognize that such subjective observation of ‘facts’ is constantly taking place, and that this can help provide a foundation by which we can better understand what is going on with the Mandela Effect and reality shifts, we can gain renewed confidence that humanity can address all seemingly ‘impossible’ problems and situations.

Welcome to the Quantum Age!

 

I invite you to watch the companion video to this blog post at:

 

___________________________

QuantumJumps300x150adCynthia Sue Larson is the best-selling author of six books, including Quantum Jumps. Cynthia has a degree in Physics from UC Berkeley, and discusses consciousness and quantum physics on numerous shows including the History Channel, Gaia TV, Coast to Coast AM, the BBC and One World with Deepak Chopra and on the Living the Quantum Dream show she hosts. You can subscribe to Cynthia’s free monthly ezine at: https://www.RealityShifters.com
RealityShifters®