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Quantum Theory – The Cosmic Prankster

November 12, 2020

Quantum mechanics is what happens when nobody is looking.

Benjamin Schumacher

“At the heart of quantum mechanics is a rule that sometimes governs politicians or CEOs – as long as no one is watching, anything goes.”
― Lawrence M. Krauss

In some ways I like to think of quantum theory as how the universe plays a big cosmic joke with us.

It sweeps the rug from under our feet where ever we feel certain, but in a kind of playful, joking way.

Just as the caricatured scientist, in his desire to be metaphysically modest and impartial, imagining human beings have no influence on objective reality, gets stumped by the wave function collapse.

He then may engage in epistemological arrogance as a counter point to try and make up for his metaphysical modesty. And say that all we can know is all that there is, and reality is not uncertain, but our ability to measure it is.

Whichever choice he takes quantum theory is ready to play pranks on him. Quantum tunnelling shows us that reality itself indeed must be uncertain, for it is the only way that this known phenomenon could take place. Thus, we are not just dealing with a probabalistic uncertainty, or epistemological limitation in our ability to measure. While Schrodinger’s poor old cat lies in wait ready to pounce on any overly humble scientist who dares to try and completely remove the observer and the collapsed wave function from his account of reality.

In other directions quantum theory refuses to be used as a means to allow spirituality, consciousness or free will a free reign over reality. It may hint at such possibilities, but it never provides them. It teases and tantalises us all and in a lot of ways perhaps confirms that this universe is in some sense the creation of a cosmic trickster.

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