Is Reality Digital or Analog?

I stumbled across this question in a Scientific American RSS feed. Does it really ask what it seems to? Unfortunately, that seems to be the case. This is what happens when you let a bunch of physicists loose in a sandbox and ask them to define it.

I have to be careful in framing my criticism of the real question posed here, since I lack any credible qualifications for judging questions of quantum mechanics. What I submit instead is that the “definition” of reality does not fall within the jurisdiction of the laws of quantum mechanics (whatever those turn out to be), any more than the glorious majesty of Half Dome or the Grand Canyon falls within the jurisdiction of the traffic court division of the Superior Court of California, County of Kern.

To my thinking, the question as framed is meaningless. Is the Empire State Building incandescent or fluorescent? How many angels can sit on the head of a pin? Continue reading

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Justification for Colliders

I read an informative and entertaining article on the Large Hadron Collider in, of all places, the May 14 New Yorker. The article did an exceptional job of explaining to the layperson the LHC project (the 7 trillion electron volt machine scheduled for completion in Cern this October), including the mechanics of its operation, hoped for results, and the underlying theoretical physics. It even did a creditable job of presenting a mercifully brief, high level outline of string theory, if that is possible. The article is Crash Course by Elizabeth Kolbert, linked here, as, happily, it’s available online at the moment.

But I found the motivation for this posting in a remarkable quotation Continue reading

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