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Road to Reality – Point-like Atoms vs Quantum “Stuff”

September 15, 2021

What is a quantum entity, and how do we reconcile it with the framework of space and time which is designed for atomic, point-like entities?

This could turn out to be the unsolvable conundrum of a certain paradigm in physics, from which we will only be able to extricate ourselves by questioning aspects of this paradigm.

I read back on the work of Bertrand Russell in the early 20th century before the quantum revolution and see how sure people were of some sort of atomic picture of the small scale things. Then I look at what has happened since, and see how it has blown apart these hopes of surety.

I now find myself reading through the sections on the quantum particle and quantum theory algebra in Roger Penrose’s Road to Reality and see a great attempt to face this conundrum head on, where most scientists seem to prefer to hide in the quantum formalism and ignore some of its metaphysical implications, while most non-scientists prefer to rush to simplistic airy fairy metaphysical conclusions.

If this situation is to be addressed as a real problem in a real world, we have to be clear about what we are presuming reality to be and not take anything for granted. Penrose attempts this refusal to jump to conclusions in this work of his and it is a much appreciated effort.

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