As it turns out, reality is at odds with itself. What does this mean? Some anonymous person said that “the world is all that is the case.” Another questionable statement! It implies the difficulty researchers face during experiments with simulation realities when finding them irreconcilable.
This proves that so-called objective facts may not cohere. One such experiment in trouble was done on a preprint server. Again, this may sound questionable but such is the nature of current research centering on simulations.
Physics principles defined the experiment and they were pretty complicated. The conclusion of the research is that “reality is at odds with itself”. Not to be redundant, this is a telling statement. Let’s see why.
No ultimate reality
It harks back to an old 1961 thought experiment described by Nobel Prize-winner Eugene Wigner. It had to do with quantum mechanics and an inherent paradox. This genius had the wherewithal to decipher it.
He talked about two observers looking at the universe, finding it strange. He postulated himself and a friend within two distinct realities. This thought experiment set the tone for others to come. Some dealt with analyzing measurement and the possibility of the existence of objective facts. It has always been a conundrum in science and philosophy. It is a “cool” feature of these fields and has spawned much empirical inquiry.
What facts are real and which ones are not. Can science describe a real world without them? Such questions are the fodder of dinner entertainment among theorists. Yet it seems that Wigner’s thought experiment went beyond amusing conversation. We can see that in retrospect.
Let’s jump to 2020, a time that saw advances in quantum technology thanks to the innovations in modern physics. Now Wigner’s friend test could be re-run in the real world and not just Wigner’s mind. It comes down to the assumption or hypothesis that we can create new realities, called simulations, and deconstruct them in a lab. Perhaps they can cohere, or be reconciled, creating one system.
It is part of the work of Massimiliano Proietti, a researcher from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. Along with a group of colleagues, he performed a long-awaited experiment. It had to do with comparing and contrasting realities. The group then discovers that yes, they are irreconcilable.
Quantum entangled photons recreate Wigner’s experiment
Now we get to the newer work. While Wigner’s thought experiment can be found lacking or simplistic, the newer one goes beyond and corrects it. Wigner started with a single, polarized photon. It either displays vertical or horizontal polarization, when measured. Per the laws of quantum mechanics, a photon actually dwells simultaneously in both states of polarization, known as superposition.
Quantum mechanics can now refute Wigner’s friend experiment. Wigner positioned the friend in a lab other than his own to measure the state of a photon. He recorded the result while watching from a distance. He couldn’t possibly guess the measurement, could he? He had to assume that the photon and its measurement were in a state of superposition of all possible experiment outcomes.
He would have likely said that the “fact” of the superposition’s existence is real. It would suggest that the measurement did not take place at all. Of course, this would have contradicted his friend’s assertion that he performed and recorded the photon’s polarization. He can claim it all day long without revealing more details.
What resulted was the existence of two realities at odds with one another. Per Proietti and friends in an MIT Technology review article, it “calls into question the objective status of the facts established by the two observers.”
Wigner’s great thought experiment has been updated by Proietti with entanglement techniques and using many particles simultaneously. It is a breakthrough, perhaps as much as Wigner’s experiment was in a different way.
“In a state-of-the-art 6-photon experiment, we realize this extended Wigner’s friend scenario.”
Some old questions that had baffled scientists are reframed as physicists confront the nature of reality. Conclusions to the issue are complicated but have great import, nonetheless. No matter that there are loopholes all around. Future scrutiny will help determine the existence of a true quantifiable reality.
You and your friends can debate it endlessly. Try some different arguments stemming from quantum physics. You will probably be wrong just as your friends will. It is that kind of game. Defining reality with arguments is just an illusion, or so we think…
Simulation Theory and Simulation Creationism
With all due respect to Wigner and his gang, we have something new to add to the mix. Simulation Theory might go along with “no objective reality” but it takes a step further and defines reality as a simulation. It is the brainchild of some alien race perhaps or superbeings from an unknown time. We live in a simulation akin to an advanced video game run by a supercomputer. It is not unfathomable given the digital advancements we are experiencing today. Who knew in the last century that we would have AI, Machine Learning, and AR? Nir Ziso, the founder of The Global Architect Institute, is helping to promote Simulation Theory and has even expanded it in his Simulation Creationism. It is suggested that a divine deity interested in studying the processes related to creation and life is behind the universe’s origin.