I look for proof that I may not be as insane as I sometimes believe. It becomes difficult to explain my experiences and even more difficult to find some sort of corroborating evidence, or at least some credible source that may also have similar experiences. What this article attempts to explain is that our shared reality is more of an individual experience and that not all of the characteristics of that experience can be experienced by others in a similar (possibly factual) manner.
There are the subjective filters of our frame of reference that plays a part in how we experience this so-called shared reality, but those filters are often difficult to discern. Ask 12 witnesses what they experienced during a particular shared event and they will describe the experience from 12 different perspectives. Video evidence often refutes what they claim and we often rely on some kind of technological method as empirical evidence. This new quantum experiment may begin to cast doubt on the veracity of technological records in the future.
The observer’s interpretation may very well be a key component to how the event is manifested. In other words, if the 12 witnesses that I mentioned above were not present and another twelve witnesses experienced the event instead, because the observers have changed (everything else remains the same) I would predict that there would be a different outcome regarding the event itself.
We exist on the leading edge of creation, and as observers, our presence (not merely observance) determines the outcome whether we are aware of it or not. The subjective nature of reality begins to bolster the notion that our reality is more of a dream than we care to believe.
Attention: This article was reformatted from its original post and location. No other changes to content were made. I do not have permission to reproduce this article and will remove it if asked to do so. The original article can be found here.
A quantum experiment suggests there’s no such thing as objective reality
Back in 1961, the Nobel Prize–winning physicist Eugene Wigner outlined a thought experiment that demonstrated one of the lesser-known paradoxes of quantum mechanics. The experiment shows how the strange nature of the universe allows two observers—say, Wigner and Wigner’s friend—to experience different realities.
Since then, physicists have used the “Wigner’s Friend” thought experiment to explore the nature of measurement and to argue over whether objective facts can exist. That’s important because scientists carry out experiments to establish objective facts. But if they experience different realities, the argument goes, how can they agree on what these facts might be?
That’s provided some entertaining fodder for after-dinner conversation, but Wigner’s thought experiment has never been more than that—just a thought experiment.
Last year, however, physicists noticed that recent advances in quantum technologies have made it possible to reproduce the Wigner’s Friend test in a real experiment. In other words, it ought to be possible to create different realities and compare them in the lab to find out whether they can be reconciled.
And today, Massimiliano Proietti at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and a few colleagues say they have performed this experiment for the first time: they have created different realities and compared them. Their conclusion is that Wigner was correct—these realities can be made irreconcilable so that it is impossible to agree on objective facts about an experiment.
Wigner’s original thought experiment is straightforward in principle. It begins with a single polarized photon that, when measured, can have either a horizontal polarization or a vertical polarization. But before the measurement, according to the laws of quantum mechanics, the photon exists in both polarization states at the same time—a so-called superposition.
Wigner imagined a friend in a different lab measuring the state of this photon and storing the result, while Wigner observed from afar. Wigner has no information about his friend’s measurement and so is forced to assume that the photon and the measurement of it are in a superposition of all possible outcomes of the experiment.
Wigner can even perform an experiment to determine whether this superposition exists or not. This is a kind of interference experiment showing that the photon and the measurement are indeed in a superposition.
From Wigner’s point of view, this is a “fact”—the superposition exists. And this fact suggests that a measurement cannot have taken place.
But this is in stark contrast to the point of view of the friend, who has indeed measured the photon’s polarization and recorded it. The friend can even call Wigner and say the measurement has been done (provided the outcome is not revealed).
So the two realities are at odds with each other. “This calls into question the objective status of the facts established by the two observers,” say Proietti and co.
That’s the theory, but last year Caslav Brukner, at the University of Vienna in Austria, came up with a way to re-create the Wigner’s Friend experiment in the lab by means of techniques involving the entanglement of many particles at the same time.
The breakthrough that Proietti and co have made is to carry this out. “In a state-of-the-art 6-photon experiment, we realize this extended Wigner’s friend scenario,” they say.
They use these six entangled photons to create two alternate realities—one representing Wigner and one representing Wigner’s friend. Wigner’s friend measures the polarization of a photon and stores the result. Wigner then performs an interference measurement to determine if the measurement and the photon are in a superposition.
The experiment produces an unambiguous result. It turns out that both realities can coexist even though they produce irreconcilable outcomes, just as Wigner predicted.
That raises some fascinating questions that are forcing physicists to reconsider the nature of reality.
The idea that observers can ultimately reconcile their measurements of some kind of fundamental reality is based on several assumptions. The first is that universal facts actually exist and that observers can agree on them.
But there are other assumptions too. One is that observers have the freedom to make whatever observations they want. And another is that the choices one observer makes do not influence the choices other observers make—an assumption that physicists call locality.
If there is an objective reality that everyone can agree on, then these assumptions all hold.
But Proietti and co’s result suggests that objective reality does not exist. In other words, the experiment suggests that one or more of the assumptions—the idea that there is a reality we can agree on, the idea that we have freedom of choice, or the idea of locality—must be wrong.
Of course, there is another way out for those hanging on to the conventional view of reality. This is that there is some other loophole that the experimenters have overlooked. Indeed, physicists have tried to close loopholes in similar experiments for years, although they concede that it may never be possible to close them all.
Nevertheless, the work has important implications for the work of scientists. “The scientific method relies on facts, established through repeated measurements and agreed upon universally, independently of who observed them,” say Proietti and co. And yet in the same paper, they undermine this idea, perhaps fatally.
The next step is to go further: to construct experiments creating increasingly bizarre alternate realities that cannot be reconciled. Where this will take us is anybody’s guess. But Wigner, and his friend, would surely not be surprised.
Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1902.05080 : Experimental Rejection of Observer-Independence in the Quantum World