Financial Mathematics Text

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Our Relationship to Nature from Classical to Quantum Physics

...we have to remember that what we observe is not nature in itself but nature exposed to our method of questioning. Our scientific work in physics consists in asking questions about nature in the language that we possess and trying to get an answer from experiment by the means that are at our disposal.
-Werner Hesienberg. Physics and Philosophy.

Here, I don't think, from this brief distinction it is clear that there's a difference between classical and quantum physics and our view of what scientific inquiry amounts to. The emphasis that is later noted is that "we ourselves are both players and spectators." It is this that seems where quantum physics view of the relationship between the observer and the observed is different from the classical picture. Nature has a set of potentialities which are only actualized when an observation is made. I would like to sketch a metaphorical description of this relationship.

In the view of classical physics, nature has a set of predetermined answers. When we ask nature a question, it searches her database of predetermined answers and finds one that is appropriate. In some cases, none exist so we are forced to ask a different question. The crucial aspect is that the answers are already set in place and it's just a matter of nature finding the answer appropriate to the question.

In the view of quantum physics, nature doesn't have a set of predetermined answers. Rather, when we ask nature a question it is as if it first reflects upon the question and then answers the question. It's almost as if we are asking questions which nature had not considered before and it's compelled to consider the question and answer.

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