Book review

Why The Many Worlds (Multiverse) Interpretation Of Quantum Mechanics Is Wrong: A New Objection

UPDATE I caused great confusion by putting the word “multiverse” in the title, when there is a whole other theory called “the” multiverse. Yet I did this because Hossenfelder herself, mainly in her prior book, Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray, did that. I was trying to keep with her terminology, to broaden the title. In the Many Worlds, which H called a kind of multiverse, the cloned or new universes are created at the instant of measurement. In “the” multiverse, these universes already exist for other reasons. My fault for being unclear.

This is a first of a number of posts as I review Sabine Hossenfelder’s new book Existential Physics, a book which is at turns infuriating, informative, and amusing. I thought it well to begin with agreement: Hossenfelder is as skeptical as I am about the Many Worlds theory(ies), but for different reasons than me.

Her objection, in brief, is that other “worlds” cannot be measured, and if it cannot be measured, it isn’t science. I agree with this, up to a point. More on that point in other posts.

I am not a (small-e) expert on Many Worlds, first proffered by Everett. So I am sure the objection to these theories given below must have been thought of by somebody else, but I have not been able to discover who or where.

I do know of a near criticism, called the problem of preferred bias, which is well known, and about which more in a moment. My objection carries the preferred bias objection through to its logical end, which, as I said, must have been done before.

What is Many Worlds? Quoting from the Stanford Plato link:

The fundamental idea of the MWI [many worlds interpretation], going back to Everett 1957, is that there are myriads of worlds in the Universe in addition to the world we are aware of. In particular, every time a quantum experiment with different possible outcomes is performed, all outcomes are obtained, each in a different newly created world, even if we are only aware of the world with the outcome we have seen. The reader can split the world right now using this interactive quantum world splitter. The creation of worlds takes place everywhere, not just in physics laboratories, for example, the explosion of a star during a supernova.

(I’m not here going to go over the background of quantum mechanics, and will assume you know it. If not, you can find out about anywhere.)

Suppose a Quantum System (QS) can take one of two measurements, 1 or 2. A function of the wave function of that QS gives the (conditional) probabilities of which state will be measured. For us, we do not care what these probabilities are, as long as they are not extreme (zero or one). We will make only one measurement in our universe, and suppose it turns out to be 1. That means, under MW, another universe sees the measurement 2.

Now comes the preferred bias objection, which notes the obvious: why did we get 1 and the other universe 2? Why not the other way around? This natural criticism does not appear to carry much force with believers in MW. After all, even if MW is false, there is no predicting with certainty which measurement we’ll get, so that we see 1 and the other universe sees 2 is just one more mystery.

And then there are similar things like the EPR “paradox” and entanglement, which nobody understands (it is said, but see Wolfgang Smith). An entangled pair of particles is let loose, one goes left, one right, and after a long time, long enough that the distance is so great the particles cannot communicate with each other, the left is measured spin up, and, voila, the right is spin down. How? Textbook quantum physics has no answer: it just accepts. So why complain about which universe gets which measurement?

That is where the preferred objection ends, and here is where mine begins.

It is not just that we see 1 and the other universe sees 2, it is that the other universe does not also see 1.

If we see 1, then according to MW, another universe must see 2. But that means there must be some greater cause, an Overseer, which ensures the second universe does not also see a 1. This is very similar to the EPR situation, where there must be some non-local cause ensuring one particle is spin up, the other spin down. But it’s not quite the same, as we now see.

The MW says there are different universes, not just different areas of space in one universe as in EPR, which makes non-locality even more puzzling. That Overseer must operate in such a way that every universe gets its own unique measurement, and that no other universe duplicates a measurement of any other universe.

What is this cause, this Overseer? A new force of the universe? We can wave our hands, as materialists do now with EPR and say “Who knows?” And so shrug this objection off.

But it’s much worse than it sounds. Much worse. For in some Quantum Systems we not only have the possibility of a finite number of measurements, as in our first example, but there are some measurements which might be any of an infinite number. So it’s not only 1 or 2, but it’s 1 or 2 or 3 or …, and so on forever.

This makes the Overseer’s job particularly difficult. Not just in sorting out which universe gets which measurement, but in making it so. Pause here. Think. The Overseer has to have infinite power to sort out the order, and he must create the proper order, according to MW, instantaneously.

So we not only require the Overseer to have infinite power to assign, in an instant, a unique measurement to each universe, but he must also have omniscience, he must be all-knowing, to sort out, in the instance of assignment, which universe gets which measurement so that there are no duplicates. Amazing.

That whole problem is made worse if, as some say, the infinity of possible measures is not just countable, but uncountable. If space is continuous, then a measurement of location is along the continuum, which is a much, much larger infinity than our countable infinity. The power and knowledge required of the Overseer is inconceivable greater here.

Whether or not that is so, countable or uncountable, the Overseer must be operating constantly, expending infinite amounts of energy every time a quantum measurement is made. And with no time off, or the multiverse comes to a halt.

Now it could be that the Overseer is God, who is both all powerful and omniscient. If that is so, then Many Worlds is not impossible. Or, rather, it does not seem impossible based on power considerations alone.

And if this Overseer is not God, and it just some new force, then there is no multiverse. For the Overseer’s actions tie all universes together, necessarily, because there are no duplicate measures in any individual universe. There must be a connection of all universes, at least through the Overseer. So it seems there is no multiverse at all, but one big universe, which can, and do, communicate with each other. Albeit through the Overseer. Who, or which, might be open to probing on questions of measurement decisions.

Incidentally, even in you ignore the infinities, and have only finite measurements, as with EPR, there still be something using a power to cause the measurements. That finishes my objection. If anybody has seen it before, please let me know.

This is one of the theories entertained by physicists who hold with an ontology that excludes potentiality as a form of existence. More on that in future posts.

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Categories: Book review, Philosophy

28 replies »

  1. The entire argument behind the MWI is just an outcome of the “woo woo” caused by the Copenhagen Interpretation (CI). This is the root cause of so much misunderstanding in basic physics, and yet it has persisted for nigh onto a century now. The CI muddles the waters at all levels of quantum physics, even to the idiocy behind modern “quantum computers”, which do nothing that wasn’t been done by gears and hydraulics decades ago (except at much, much greater expense).

    Uncertainty is in our minds, not in the universe. Particle (or waves) exist in one state. We do not know that state, we *cannot* know that state without direct and careful measurement, because particles are tiny and easily disturbed by nearly everything, and everything depends on absolutely everything else, ad infinitum. “Superposition” means a variety of states. Yes, the particle/wave could be in any number of states. And yet, when we measure it, it is always found to be in exactly one. That’s not because of some magical “observer measurement” event. It’s because it was always in one and only one state, but we just didn’t (couldn’t even in principle) know which it was until we measured.

    A fundamental principle of physics, seldom written down or articulated, is that “everything except energy sums up to nothing”. When two electrons are “entangled” by having opposite spins, their total spins adds up to nothing. One electron spins right (up), the other left (down). There is no magic involved. Which one is which is completely indeterminate (in our minds) until we measure it. At which point, voila! We instantly know the spin of the other, no matter how far away it may be. So what? If I buy a pair of shoes, and have a friend secretly mail one to Japan, and only after it arrives there I open the box with one left shoe in it, I instantly know the right shoe is in Japan. No hocus, and certainly no pocus, involved.

    Uncertainty is in the mind.

    As to the uncertainty principle? It is very difficult to measure a wave when using less than half of the amplitude. The less of a wave you have to measure, the more imprecise the measurement must be. The law is actually an inequality involving the product of two uncertainties. This is a basic principle of wave geometry (and you thought high school trigonometry was useless?), and has nothing to do with the precision of measuring instruments. It simply is and must be.

    (Fun fact: h-bar is the amplitude of not just a photon, but *every* photon. This is where the term “quantum”, meaning quantity, comes from.)

  2. The universe splits at every quantum mechanical “random” event, which means for every real and virtual particle at every time quanta. The observational evidence favoring this CLAIM is zero. (“CLAIM” is not “hypothesis” or “theory”, because it makes no testable predictions.)

    Yet, where does the “randomness” come from? What implements that? If you call the next-level-enclosing physics “God” then what created/implements “God”? Both the turtles-all-the-way-down and the-creator-needs-no-creator ideas are inconsistent with everything else we’ve observed. Therefore, humans don’t know what they’re talking about in this area.

  3. Gottfried Leibniz’ Best of All Possible Worlds (1710)

    Voltaire’s Candide satirical criticism of the concept of “The Best of All Possible Worlds” (1759)

    Hezekiah’s Illness

  4. Ah, Multiverses (*sighs as if one Universe isn’t enough to discuss).

    Good discussion in Fr. Robert Spitzer’s “New Proofs for the Existence of God…”
    (or is it Overseer?).

    Aside: try to find a good video of Spitzer vs. Hawking discussing the Overseer on CNN.

  5. Right, @McChuck.

    Schroedinger proposed his cat thought experiment to show how stupid was the idea of a “collapsing probability field” — the implication of Copenhagen was that the cat was both alive and dead, which is lunacy. Or that a particle had no spin until it or it’s pair was observed/measured, when it was just that we didn’t know which spin either had until we bothered to find out. The problem was uncertainty; humans didn’t know what state the particle was in. The hubris of man caused him to reject the idea that we just are not omniscient, and instead that measuring a thing does some woo-woo.

    The sad part of the story is that the fact that a whole roomful of smart people thought the idea of a cat being both alive and dead at the same time made more sense than we simply didn’t know whether the cat was alive or dead made Schroedinger doubt whether his obvious common-sense answer was correct.

    Personally, I find a slight variant on MWI comforting. Don’t remember whose — sometime in the 80s, I think. Universes do not create themselves at each quantum decision point. They existed in parallel since Creation. It means our choices actually matter. True, there exist a multiplicity of universes in which “I” remained atheist or died in a car wreck or something, but through my choices I in effect “decide” which universe “I” exist in. The more correct choices the multiplicity of “I” made, the more of His spirit is in the collective “I” at the end.

    With Him all things are possible. Literally.

  6. 1 – There is a basic misunderstanding here. Wave functions do not collapse, we just switch models for a process that is not fully understood. Thus quantum events have one outcome (same as every other scale of event). e.g. the coin, while in the air, has two possible outcomes, but only one when it lands. The two possible outcomes reflect our lack of knowledge, not physical reality – in reality the outcome is fully determined by the forces acting on the coin. Since events cannot have two outcomes the whole multi-verse idea is a misinterpretation – basically saying that the absence of known causality means that no causality exists.

    2 – on the other hand there’s a far out theory that the real universe is 3d,3t (3 directional dimensions and three time dimensions.) According to this idea.. what we see as physical reality is a particular combination of 3d,1t – suggesting there are at least (6,3) dimensionally specific universes with cousin Spooky mediating between them. I think it’s most probably nonsense, but it’s an idea that can be derived by applying special relativity to the universe we see and then asking what the general case would look like.

  7. In respect to the efficacy of quantum mechanics to explain our universe(s) I recommend a review of the work of Dr. Randy Mills https://brilliantlightpower.com/theory/ . His new model of the electron allows extremity accurate predictions of all bonding energies in atoms and molecules using classical physics. It also has great implications for understanding observations of the cosmos.

  8. So, in another universe, I married my girlfriend in 1974, was consequently driven to homicidal insanity, strangled her, and went to the electric chair. So glad I’m this “I” and not that poor bastard.

  9. What implemented God? God is the being that Is Being, so He Is. No need for God to have a creator. All actual, no potential. Everything else that is all potential initially doesn’t become actual until He makes it so. Then, such things are composites of potential and actual. Such is our physical, material universe.

  10. Why are the recent loopholes-closed physical proofs of Bell’s Inequality, including the 2022 Nobel, not a bugger deal? Non-locality and superluminal communication are now facts, not theories. So it seems to me that our old friend Wolfgang was right all along. Surely there must be a Sean Carroll youtube condescendingly splaining this.

  11. We can conjecture and dream up scenarios all we like, unless I get correspondence or something stepping out of thin air to deliver a punch-line for a joke I was thinking about from another “world” then I prefer to stay in this world for my reality for now.

    There maybe force tensions over distance that if one particle flips another must also flip to equalize at a particular time and place…but again it is speculation only.

  12. @Paul Murphy, “Since events cannot have two outcomes the whole multi-verse idea is a misinterpretation – basically saying that the absence of known causality means that no causality exists.”

    At least one step too far. MWI is simply a rejection of pure materialistic determinism. More precisely, a rejection of the idea that all causes, even unknown causes, must be materialistically deterministic. MWI has no problems with the concept of an immaterial and unmeasurable soul, for example, which can affect reality, while Copenhagen does.

  13. To clarify, MWI does not posit the existence of a soul or of God, or anything else outside what can be measured. It’s just an acceptance of the idea that what we think of as “science” may be a proper subset of “cause”.

  14. Quantum is fake and particles don’t ecist. The atom cannot be split. Protons and electrons ate a lie. Thus I say.

  15. Ah the chalkboard wonder world of Big Science.

    Where many a merry stupid is invented and then believed-in in order to save the prior mistake or fantasy.

    Folks, the multiverse many worlds bullshit only exists as an escape hatch for moderns who don’t want to admit that the midievals with their Bibles and Pope understood Science, the Universe and reality better than they ever did or will.

    At best it is useful for making Spiderman movies, or justifying sodomy as Everything Everywhere All At Once does by attempting to leverage the idea that even stupider shit is happening in another universe, so why worry about gays and taxes? Why, your other gender might even be trying to live in this world through you! Bravo! Somewhere Sometime Somehow we have all won an Academy Award, and there are no better actors or scriptwriters than scientists! Just look at how much money they’ve made and convinced people to do using the medium of fiction!

    With AI making all kinds of convincing visuals, maybe it is just photographing these other worlds and the screwed up writing and six fingered hands truly aren’t artifacts. If that is so, then I really must find a portal through which to contact some of those incredibly perfect women I’ve seen. The ladies of this world can take a hike.

  16. So glad that we and all humankind and all creation, are solidly here, in this Universe, which is the only Universe. . So glad that God revealed Himself as I AM WHO AM. So glad that Jesus Christ revealed that He IS the Way, the Truth, and the Life. So glad that God gave us all so much to discover as ways to prove to reason, that He is and always has been and always will be, and to have fun doing the proving that He is, always has been, and always will be.

    God bless, C-Marie

  17. There is nothing preventing the existence of other timelines which have the same measurement outcomes as yours.

    In Everett’s original paper the idea is to count the (very large) number of timelines with each possible measurement outcome and the probabilities you assign should match the fraction of timelines with that outcome. There is no specific point in time where a branching occurs or a new universe is created or anything like that, but to do math and make sense of experiments, it helps to adopt this conceit of a discrete measurement.

    I am currently a fan of ‘t Hooft’s version of superdeterminsm, btw. Conservation of ontic status of quantum states is no more mysterious than conservation of momentum.

  18. Gremlins or auto-correct?
    I see “preferred basis”;
    Briggs writes “preferred bias”.

  19. @ Mark Docherty – “Why are the recent loopholes-closed physical proofs of Bell’s Inequality, including the 2022 Nobel, not a bugger deal? Non-locality and superluminal communication are now facts, not theories. ”

    Not really. These genius scientists, through years of expensive and clever experiments, have managed to prove that sine waves act like sine waves, and triangle waves do not act like sine waves. That is all. If you read Bell’s paper, it has glaring holes in logic. It basically sets up a strawman triangle wave to beat up on, and then proves that triangle waves don’t act like sine waves. Which is trivially true, and not what any sane person is arguing for.

    The state of modern scientific “thought” is pathetic, and that of scientific education far worse. It is mere repetition of rote learning wrapped in fancy math. Remember, scientists are all college graduates. College is where you go to be indoctrinated into Leftism and taught not to think.

    (4 years as an Army signals analyst taught me more about waves than the average electrical engineering graduate. They can do the math, but they don’t really understand what it means.)

  20. From above: “moderns who don’t want to admit that the midievals with their Bibles and Pope understood Science, the Universe and reality better than they ever did or will.”

    I’d go with “about the same as”. I’d say that because moderns have not answered the question conclusively. I’d have to concede “we” can read now everything “they” wrote then, while they could not read then what we’re writing now.

    My fancy logic for proving my case is that every time I think I have thought a new thought I learn that someone else has thought the same thought long, long ago. King Solomon expressed the same frustration to start Eclesiastes, the bible’s most existential chapters.

  21. I figure that in at least one universe in the Multiverse the Multiverse concept has been proven to be false.

  22. johnno / kevin

    Isaiah flitted between two Universes; one in which Hezekiah died and one in which he lived.

    (Hezekiah was the original Shroedinger cat – Note: also an example of Kurt Godel’s theories at play))

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