Plato and Aristotle.
We start with these two, as the argument of whether reality is local (physical) or non-local (something ‘beyond’) has one of its greatest conflicts at this point in history. Plato believed that reality was non-local, and his famous ‘Allegory of the Cave’ explains it beautifully. All should be familiar with this story and its meaning. In summary, we are merely shadows on the wall, cast by a deeper hidden reality.
Aristotle, Plato’s student, believed that reality was ultimately local, and so was in direct opposition to Plato. According to Aristotle, the only reality is the one we experience with our senses. Sadly, his philosophy and belief ended up being the predominant Western perspective. (This was not solely Aristotle’s doing of course, but he is a convenient first domino). This mechanistic, material, cartesian perspective has been perpetuated over the centuries, by great men such as Newton, Descartes, Einstein, and countless others. And in a nutshell, this is a key reason why science and religion clash in the West.
Interestingly, the Eastern perspective is exactly opposite, and lines up perfectly with Plato. Buddha, Lao Tsu, and the vast majority of Eastern thinkers describe a holistic, non-local view of reality.
As does quantum physics…
Quantum Physics: Copenhagen Interpretation
After thousands of years of science supporting Aristotle, Quantum Physics swung the argument back into Plato’s favor. In a very big way. Bohr, Heisenberg, Planck, and the greatest minds of the day turned to Eastern philosophy to help them grasp the implications of their own work. Buddha was right, as many of them said. Quantum physics produced results in the physical world, but its implications could not be grasped by the Western world view. The mathematics and experimental results only made sense when accepting that reality was non-local. Plato was right.
You want to understand what those great minds thought? Do not read textbooks on quantum physics; read what the physicists said. Read Heisenberg’s book ‘Physics and Philosophy’ and read Max Planck’s books and essays. Read the many profound quotes of Niels Bohr, the father of quantum physics. Read what these men said, not what others said about their work.
And as Niels Bohr said “Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it.”
The revolution in computers is based upon quantum physics. The very idea of a semiconductor transistor is not possible with the science of Newton and Einstein. Neither is God.
Understand Einstein’s perspective. He hated quantum physics. Einstein’s work (arguably) completed our understanding of the physical world – the local reality. While his work was profound, and took us far beyond conventional thought, he was still a champion of the Aristotelian, the Western, deterministic world view. His work did not violate the basic Western philosophy – it built upon it. We could still remain materialists. This would do much to explain his godly stature in culture. But about reality, he was ultimately wrong. His world was still a shadow, cast by a non-local reality; whether he believed it or not.
Ironically, Einstein contributed a great deal to quantum physics, both directly and indirectly. Much of his motivation was that quantum physics violated his beliefs, and his work. However, quantum physics does not violate relativity, or any of Einstein’s work. Ironically, quantum physics solidifies Einstein’s work by explaining phenomena that appear to violate it.
Nothing violates Einstein’s work, except for quantum effects. And that is only in appearance, as these effects are a result of non-locality. Einstein’s work applies only to the local reality, and thus is never violated. This is a very import insight, that is mathematically founded and demonstrated in experimentation.
Sadly, many scientists do not understand this, or refuse to, because they cannot accept non-locality, and thus end up postulating that Einstein’s work is violated. In fact, quantum mechanics is the only physics that is itself never ever violated. But again, if we account for non-locality, we can also excuse all apparent violations of Einsteinian physics.
Einstein spent most of his life trying to prove quantum physics wrong. He devised many great thought experiments to challenge the tenants of quantum physics, and fought with Niels Bohr constantly about it. In the end, Einstein was proven wrong every time. But still, many scientists refused to accept the implications. Over the last hundred years, many a great mind came to Einstein’s defense. Many a great mind could not accept probability, uncertainty, and non-locality. (So don’t expect common people to accept such things so easily).
The EPR Paradox
This was the most famous thought experiment postulated by Einstein, Podosky, and Rosen in the 1930s, and it took over 30 years before experiments could be done. These proved quantum physics right, and Einstein wrong, leading to the proof of quantum entanglement, among other things. It should have put the argument to rest, but it did not…
Bell’s Inequality was the death knell of the ‘Western’ perspective, and so it was ignored, of course. John Bell, still refusing to accept the results of the EPR implications, decided to prove quantum physics wrong by instead attacking the idea of reality directly. His idea was brilliant. He set to prove that reality was local, and thus, quantum physics would have to be wrong, or at least incomplete. Like Einstein’s EPR Paradox, on paper, Bell would seem to be victorious by virtue of logic. Many trumpeted his work as a victory for the Western paradigm. Until the work was tested…
Alain Aspect, along with others, carried out experiments following Bell’s work, and in 1974 proved convincingly that reality is non-local. Bell’s work had successfully done the opposite of what he intended. This marked the end of thousands of years of philosophical debate. Forty years later, there is still no question about this, as many others have carried out the experiments. Yet, most still chose to simply ignore it and remain rooted in their antiquated thinking. (I am exaggerating the finality of such experiments, but decades later the results do remain the same).
Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC)
When a BEC was actually produced for the first time in 1995 – seventy years after the theory – I was beyond myself with excitement. I remember where I was – in a library, reading about it in a science magazine, and wondering why it wasn’t front page news on every media publication on the planet.
Einstein and Bose worked out the mathematics, and never expected to see what should have been obvious. They completely ignored the most spectacular result of their work, because they did not fully embrace the implications of quantum physics and non-local reality. They simply worked with the math and statistics (which were applicable for various scientific uses). But the actual ‘condensate’ that was predicted by this work was a completely new state of matter! So, we have gas, liquid, and solid, which we are all familiar with… then there is plasma, which is less well known, but still not difficult to grasp. And finally we ended up with this new fifth state of matter – the Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC). And BEC defies – no – violates all logic and science – except for quantum physics, which it matches perfectly. It is in fact a beautiful physical representation of the Heisenberg Uncertainly Principle taken to one extreme.
Short definition – completely eliminate all motion from an atom, and it will ‘blend’ in with every other atom around it, so that you can never completely know its exact location (even though it is not moving!) – in perfect accordance with Heisenberg’s Uncertainly Principle.
When we violate the laws of the physical world, there must still be rules for doing so, and indeed, quantum physics gives us those rules. BEC is physical evidence of the underlying holistic nature of reality. It is a direct result of the Heisenberg Uncertainly Principle: and when we try to alter the physical world to violate that principle, a new form of matter emerges, and thus keeps the principle intact. Against all odds and logic, we lose some ability to detect BEC matter. And yet it is completely predictable by quantum physics, and totally consistent with the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Physics. In addition, the Copenhagen Interpretation is totally consistent with spirituality, religions, philosophy, magic, etc. BEC is a state of matter where everything becomes one…. just like when we still the mind and become one with everything.