By Chet Yarbrough
Something Deeply Hidden (Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime
By: Sean Carroll
Narrated by Sean Carroll
Sean Carroll is a theoretical physicist. He explains the science of physics to the general public with unusual clarity for non-scientists. “Something Deeply Hidden” explains a theory that has the potential for explaining everything about everything.
Carroll touches on the theoretical history of Quantum Mechanics. He notes the fundamental objection to Quantum Mechanics raised by Einstein and his followers.
Einstein insists that Quantum Mechanics is an incomplete theory of space, time, and motion. Einstein’s famous quote is “God does not play dice with the universe.” Carroll agrees.
Neither Einstein or Carroll are talking about belief in God but belief that there is a deeply hidden secret in Quantum Mechanics that may explain everything about everything.
Carroll recalls the history of the 1927 Fifth Solvay International Conference where quantum theory was discussed by the world’s most notable physicists.
The confrontation between Niels Bohr and Einstein results in agreement on the truth of Quantum Mechanics as a construct for calculation of space, time, and motion in the sub-atomic world. The disagreement comes with Bohr’s opinions about Quantum Mechanics. Einstein suggests Quantum Mechanics is an incomplete description of subatomic unpredictability.
Carroll explains that Quantum Mechanics has been reinforced as true by every experiment tried since its discovery. It fulfills Karl Popper’s dictum that a theory of anything must be falsifiable to be called science.
The many experiments on Quantum Mechanics have proven its validity as a theory of time, space, and motion in the sub-atomic world.
However, Quantum Mechanics remain a subject that Richard Feynman said no one can clearly explain or understand.
Carroll accepts Feynman’s and Einstein’s views. The theory of Quantum Mechanics is not explainable and (as Einstein suggested) it may simply be an incomplete theory.
Carroll suggests Quantum Mechanics remains unexplainable because of human inability to observe its truth from what is called a superposition. We cannot look at Quantum Mechanics outside the realm of personal cognition.
His answer is to acknowledge its truth by adhering to the Schrodinger equation which insists that a cat in a box is both dead and alive. Carroll argues that scientists waste their time challenging Schrodinger’s equation. Carroll suggests the cat in the box is both dead (actually Carroll prefers asleep) and alive.
Carroll argues that probability is an essential ingredient of Quantum Mechanics but he explains it is not the “probability” often understood by the public. Carroll’s view of probability is in knowing our human limitation of not being able to look at nature outside of what we understand as nature.
Humans cannot be in a superposition to see the effect of Quantum Mechanics because humans are trapped in their own sense of space, time, and motion. Probability, rather than certainty, is a function of a personal observation trap.
What Carroll suggests is other worlds are created because of the nature of Quantum Fields that are the essence of everything that exists in the universe.
Carroll explains particle physics were once considered the holy grail of understanding nature. Now, there is wide recognition that fields; not particles, are the building blocks of nature. Every particle vibrates like a string and emits a wave that permeates all space; including a vacuum where no particles exist.
Empty space is simply a low state of energy with no extant particles within its emptiness (aka a vacuum). It is not to suggest particles are not important. They are the source of the waves that permeate space.
Finding the Higgs-bosun is confirmation of the importance of particles in showing that it is undiscovered glue that holds atoms together.
Carroll’s books are excellent physics primers for non-scientists because they reduce science complexity to understandable examples; at least most of the time. (Space-time remains a mystery to me; even with Carroll’s valiant effort to explain it.) He may not be right about everything he explains, and a listener/readers’ interpretation of his writing may be wrong, but Carroll’s explanations are fascinating.
Feynman is said to have had the ability to explain the complexity of physics to the non-scientist. Carroll is today’s Feynman.