The Speculist: Testing the Many-Worlds Interpretation

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Testing the Many-Worlds Interpretation

Tipler says its doable:

The many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics holds that before a measurement is made, identical copies of the observer exist in parallel universes and that all possible results of a measurement actually take place in these universes.

Until now there has been no way to distinguish between this and the Born interpretation. This holds that each outcome of a measurement has a specific probability and that, while an ensemble of measurements will match that distribution, there is no way to determine the outcome of specific measurement.

Now Frank Tipler, a physicist at Tulane University in New Orleans says he has hit upon a way in which these interpretations must produce different experimental results.

His idea is to measure how quickly individual photons hitting a screen build into a pattern. According to the many worlds interpretation, this pattern should build more quickly, says Tipler.

And he points out that an experiment to test this idea would be easy to perform. Simply send photons through a double slit, onto a screen and measure where each one hits. Once the experiment is over, a simple mathematical test of the data tells you how quickly the pattern formed.

The many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics asserts that everything that could ever happen has happened and is happening and will happen across a vast -- possibly infinite -- number of parallel universes. If this idea were to be confirmed, it would arguably be the greatest scientific discovery of all time, even though it wouldn't have any practical consequences. That is, we will continue to experience the world the same way whether we believe it's the one and only world or we know that it is one of many.

Still, from a philosophical standpoint, it would be a pretty signfifcant development. It's been suggested that we might one day prove the existence of parallel universes using qunatum computers or via elaborate experiments using the Large Hadron Collider. How interesting if it can be proved by simply performing measurements on an experiment that's been around for years.

Comments

What, have you been drinking?


"The many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics asserts that everything that could ever happen has happened and is happening and will happen across a vast -- possibly infinite -- number of parallel universes. If this idea were to be confirmed, it would arguably be the greatest scientific discovery of all time, even though it wouldn't have any practical consequences."


Nope. Which part did you find objectionable -- that it would be hugely significant or that it wouldn't have any practical implications?

Hi, Phil Bowermaster.

The apparent objection to your statement by another poster regarding no practical consequences derives from the difference between an extant sapient entity's point of view vis--vis objective reality.

That is, extant sapient entities (principly meaning us) already exist. We are aware of our own existence, and hence the question of our existence is a non-issue. We naturally take it for granted, since it's not an issue we have to worry about (at least in the immediate sense of the here and now; in the temporal sense we have to provide for our future if we wish to continue to exist in near to our present form).

But what quantum mechanics tells us is that existence necessarily exists as a multiverse, and that we wouldn't even be here to ponder on this issue were it not for the multiversal nature of reality. Hence, we owe our existence to the multiversal nature of existence.

So in the objective sense, this issue has fundamental and profound practical consequences: one practical consequence being that we wouldn't exist if the multiverse weren't true.

Of course, given that we do exist, the realization that we (in part) owe our very existence to the multiverse nature of reality may not in of itself bring us a cornucopia of new technology and wealth (i.e., what we, as already-extant entities, are naturally inclined to regard as "practical," i.e., things which affect us and our development beyond what merely makes our existence possible). But it is an advancement of knowledge, and the closer we come to understanding reality, the closer we will be able to come in manipulating reality to suit us.

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