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A Deep Discussion with Basil Hiley

[Basil Hiley, prev.]
Let me give an example of how the causal interpretation can shed some light on what Bohr wrote. In his Phys. Rev. paper in answer to EPR [PR, 48, 696, (1935)] Bohr wrote, "From our point of view we now see that the wording of the above mentioned criterion of physical reality proposed by Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen contains an ambiguity as regards the meaning of the expression 'without in any way disturbing a system.' Of course there is no question of a mechanical disturbance of the system under investigation during the last critical stage of the measuring procedure. But even at this stage there is essentially the question of an influence on the very conditions which define the possible types of predictions regarding the future behaviour of the system." He re-quoted this passage in his essay in "Albert Einstein, Philosopher-Scientist" claiming that it was the clearest way he could explain the EPR result.

Notice the word 'influence'. It is not a 'mechanical force', it is an 'influence'.


[Hiley, prev.]
What does he mean by an 'influence'? Bohr never makes this clear. But in the causal interpretation there is a 'quantum potential' between the two entangled particles so that they are still coupled even though they are 'miles' apart and have no classical potential between them.

In the "Undivided Universe" we argued that the QP did not give rise to a mechanical force. We suggested it was a new quality of energy that had its roots in a new notion of 'active information'. In EPR this active information encodes the very experimental conditions that the pair of particles were subjected to. In other words the Bohm interpretation offers an explanation of the EPR effect by providing the exact mathematical source for the 'influence'. Thus paving the way for a different explanation of the EPR effect in terms of active information.

[Peter Mutnick, prev.]
This very virtue, however, is considered a liability by Henry Stapp, for instance, who has confided in me that he doesn't like the Bohm interpretation precisely because a feature belonging to the observer (namely the R^2 probability law) is encoded in the supposed "quantum potential" governing the observed system.

I know Henry doesn't like it. So what? That is Henry's privilege. I don't like it. The macroscopic world around us is not like it. When I played snooker I wanted all the balls to behave independently of each other except when they collided. I certainly wanted them all to be independent of my cue except the white ball during the instant I struck it. Separation on the table means mechanical independence. Indeed we find spatially separated system are in general independent unless there is some field of force acting between them. That is so self evident in our macroscopic physical world that only a fool would deny it!

However our experience with quantum phenomena provides plenty of evidence that denies this principle. In quantum mechanics spatial separation (of wave functions) is not necessary for independence (orthogonality), neither is spatial separation sufficient to ensure independence. It is this feature that Bohr recognised when he talked about the "indivisibility of the quantum of action" (i.e., the impossibility of making a sharp separation between observer and the means of observation). It is what Bohm means when he writes "...the entire universe must, in a very accurate level, be regarded as a single indivisible unit in which separate parts appear as idealisations permissible only on a classical level of accuracy of the description. This means that the view of the world as being analogous to a huge machine, the predominant view from the sixteenth to nineteenth century, is now shown to be only approximately correct. The underlying structure of matter, however, is not mechanical." (p. 167 QT)

This 'indivisible unit' or 'non-separability' is what the violation of the Bell inequalities is all about. Experiment shows that entangled quantum systems do not satisfy these inequalities no matter how far we separate the systems. The local experiment on one of the particles 'influences' both particles in an entangled pair. Our cherished mantra 'spatial separation means independence' is not being honoured by Nature. I don't like it, but Nature is saying "tuff, like it or lump it"!

Who cares what "Nature" says? Our independence is a fact anyway, and so is Nature's. Hari knows.

The problem is that we are inside the universe looking out, but we would much rather be outside the universe looking in. We cannot look at the universe as I look at the balls on the snooker table. I cannot sit outside the universe looking in. As both Bohr and Heisenberg say, "We are both actors and spectators".

Bohr also insisted on retaining his term "detached observer", under close scrutiny and criticism from Pauli. I maintain that this incident of dispute between Bohr and Pauli revealed this concept of "detached observer" as the heart and soul of the Copenhagen Interpretation, as opposed to the Zurich Interpretation or the Munich Interpretation. It means that indeed we can stand or sit outside the universe looking in. It means that we as detached observers really exist in a meta-physical world quite independently of the quantum physical world. It means in terms of psychology that there really is a detached soul and that we are it.

Is the observer entirely detached? Of course not. The body of the observer functions as a measuring instrument and is ultimately comprised of quantum atoms, so we must have a theory of the embodied observer, in addition to our theory of the detached observer. Henry is right that von Neumann began to lay the foundations for this treatment of an embodied observer, which he distinguished from the detached observer. S, M, and O refer to the quantum System, the Measuring Apparatus, and the embodied Observer, respectively, while I, II, and III refer to the actually observed system, the measuring instrument, and the detached actual observer. S, M, and O exist in I. Von Neumann's working hypothesis was the Principle of the Psycho-Physical Parallelism, which he took to mean that the extra-physical elements of the observational process can be regarded as physical (or in one-to-one correspondence with physical elements) for the purposes of science. The existence of S, M, and O in I is not exactly that, because they do not exist in the physical world, but in the emotional world, which is nonetheless a part of I.

When we act we participate. This is the lesson Wheeler is trying to get across when he says: "The observer finds himself, willy-nilly a participator. In some strange sense this participatory universe." (At Home in the Universe, AIP, 1994, p. 287) We came to a similar conclusion when we discussed the measurement process in the UU (p. 107-115). Our analysis using the quantum potential enabled us to conclude: "We are not 'measuring' a state that has already been in existence. Rather the apparatus and the observed system have participated in each other." Like Wheeler we concluded that we lived in a participatory universe where matter participated in matter.

Thank you. I wanted to know your perspective on the measurement process, and this may be the key to it. Indeed, you are talking about the apparatus and the observed system in precisely von Neumann's embodied sense, i.e., quantum sense, but you should be aware that von Neumann's concept of the abstract "ego" as the observer of last resort refers to the detached observer, which always stands *outside* the quantum calculation, "lest it proceed vacuously".

Bohm himself emphasized in "Quantum Theory" that the classical realm does not emerge from the quantum realm, but is presupposed by it, and the latter can only be defined in relation to the former. This is indeed the perspective of the Copenhagen Interpretation. Bohm then makes the, IMHO, brilliant deduction that at the very heart of the classical realm must be the quantum implicate order. He says that in following the von Neumann chain we can go past the classical region of brain, which *is* the abstract "ego", into an even deeper quantum region. It is clear that *this* opens into the quantum implicate order of the true Mind of the Observer, for Bohm often emphasizes that the implicate order is our normal subjective or phenomenological perspective (in "Wholeness and the Implicate Order", pp. 200-4, for instance).

So, with Bohm's deepening of the Copenhagen Interpretation, the detachment of the observer is justified. It is not just the classical order that exists independently, but the quantum implicate order, which is the source of all. The intimacy of the classical order and the quantum implicate order can be easily grasped by realizing that the classical order includes the thought attribute as well as the extension attribute. The thought attribute is, of course, the seed of the thought-like quantum conception of physical reality, but it first emerges into the quantum implicate order as the true Mind of the Observer before it unfolds into the quantum explicate order of the ontological system of worlds.

I cannot see the non-Euclidean geometry as I see the non-Euclidean triangles drawn on the surface of a sphere. I must draw my figures with light rays from within. This is what Herman Bondi brought home to me when he showed how the k-calculus worked in special relativity. You can construct a Minkowski space-time simply by using a radar set and a clock. In a similar manner John Synge's 'bouncing photon' can be used to reveal information about the Riemann tensor. The internal angles of a triangle defined by three light rays do not always add up to 180 degrees. Thus we explore our surroundings ('outside') with a light probe. We are not 'passively looking', we are 'acting'.

Now let me recall the lesson that G. N. Lewis taught us many years ago. If we 'sit' on a photon, we do not travel through any distance and it takes no time! It is only the 'outsider' that has to make sense of ds^2 = 0. Each Lorentz observer 'constructs ' his own space-time. In relativity contact is primary and separation secondary. But we find this very uncomfortable. We want separation (distinction) to be primary; contact is secondary, established through intermediary fields. But general relativity tells us there is no field, there is only geometry. Quantum entanglement tells us non-separability (contact) is primary no matter how far we say the 'particles are spatially separated'. The contact here is through the phase (quantum action). As I see it Nature is screaming at us to change our priorities. Contact is primary, distinction is secondary.

That's fine, but I think these references to relativity are not quite appropriate. Relativity is based on the abstraction of classical motion, v = x_2 - x_1 / t_2 - t_1, which Bohm deeply criticized in "Wholeness and the Implicate Order", pp. 200-4. If it turns out not to have much basis in reality, that is because it is an abstraction, not grounded in phenomenological reality. It needs to be redefined. *That* was Bohm's point, IMHO.

This is the underlying assumption of Bohm's "interconnectedness" and "undivided wholeness". This is what lies behind Bohr's "indivisibility of the quantum of action". Bohr tries to emphasise this by drawing to our attention to the way he uses the word phenomenon. He writes, "I advocate the application of the word phenomenon exclusively to refer to the observations obtained specified circumstances, including an account of the whole experimental arrangement." (ATHK p. 64)

Here you really seem to have a misunderstanding. While it is true that both Bohr and Bohm emphasized wholeness and interconnectedness, Bohr attributed almost everything to the observer, while Bohm in his 1952 theory attributed almost everything to the observed. This leads to vastly different perspectives on the *meaning* of wholeness and interconnectedness. Is it a property primarily of our way of seeing things or of some objective reality in nature? For Bohr, the former, for Bohm (1952), the latter. For Heisenberg, somewhere in between, as we shall see.

Bohr may cut no ice with Henry, so let us turn to Heisenberg for whom I know he has a lot of respect. The message is exactly the same. Here is the quote that is central to this discussion.

First of all, the notion of sameness between Bohr, Pauli, and Heisenberg, comprising a united front, is preposterous. Bohr in 1956 rejected unequivocally Heisenberg's conception of complementarity as that between the spacetime description and the causal description. Pauli rejected unequivocally Bohr's central conception of a detached observer. They were in fact about as divided as three men could possibly be. This is an indication that they should be understood as *differing* aspects of one universal archetype. Viva la differance. It should be the goal of anyone wanting to understand quantum theory to grasp the Gestalt of that universal archetype.

[Hiley, quoting Heisenberg]
"Therefore, the theoretical interpretation of an experiment requires three steps; (1) the translation of the initial experimental situation into a probability function; (2) the following of this function in the course of time; (3) the statement of a new measurement to be made on the system, the result of which can then be calculated from the probability function.... The second step cannot be described in terms of the classical concepts; there is no description of what happens to the system between the initial observation and the next measurement. It is only in the third step that we change over again from the 'possible' to the 'actual'." (PP p. 48)

What happens at the moment of observation? Heisenberg continues, "This means that the equation of motion does now contain the influence of the interaction with the measuring device. This influence introduces a new element of uncertainty, since the measuring device is necessarily described in the terms of classical physics; such a description contains all the uncertainties concerning the microscopic structure of the device which we know from thermodynamics and since the device is connected with the rest of the world, it contains in fact the uncertainties of the microscopic structure of the whole world." (PP p. 53)

Notice the word 'influence' again. Here the 'influence' has as its source the observing apparatus, so I don't understand Henry's objection. It is OK for Heisenberg to have "a feature belonging to the observer encoded into the process through this notion of 'influence', but it must be dismissed when we show that the Schrodinger equation provides the mathematical source of this 'influence'. It is the "quantum potential". "QP ad hoc, influence OK?" I think not! Both are different expressions of the same feature of quantum processes.

Heisenberg was an interactionist - he believed there was an essential interaction between the hypostases of von Neumann. I and II interacted in a vital and profound way. I think he understood it this way: the measuring instrument acts upon the system by establishing a state vector description of its substance; while the system acts back on the measuring instrument via the notion of potential transformed into actual event at the measuring instrument. I think he further understood that, in a representation-free sense, the state vector substance was PSI and the potential actual event was PSI*. PSI*PSI is of course the "probability function" that he keeps talking about, rather than the "wave function", as Bohm pointed out in his answer to "Physics and Philosophy". When the interaction between the measuring instrument and the system actually occurs during the measurement, the unitary evolution of the state vector in its particular representation is interrupted and the system is thrown into a representation-free interaction with the measuring instrument, which also yields the Born probabilities, but within the limits of the Uncertainty Principle, which has its origin in the representation-free interaction, which cannot on principle be taken into account. That is what I believe Heisenberg is talking about in the passage you have quoted.

I hope this has now made it clear where Bohm and myself are coming from. We were (and I still am) exploring various ways QM and GR in a structure, which starts from the assumption of 'interconnectedness'. The causal interpretation is merely an intermediary step on the way towards a deeper theory, which will eventually put GR and QM together in a single structure. Don't stop with the causal interpretation, trying to accommodate all its warts. Move on!

If I disbelieve that there was a united front consisting of Bohr, Pauli, and Heisenberg, I most certainly disbelieve that there is a united front consisting of Bohm and Hiley. I have looked at your paper on the causal interpretation in different representations and I have looked at what Bohm said about the subject, and my conclusion is that you have diverged almost completely from Bohm's program. That is fine, but please do not pull our leg with this united front business.

[Mutnick, prev.]
As I believe you and Bohm have admitted, you could never find a compelling explanation of the quantum potential (its unusual form in particular) that would justify taking it as fundamental and the continuity equation (which established the R^2 as a probability) secondary.

But I have now found the reason why the quantum potential term appears in the formulation. Please read the paper I wrote with Melvin Brown quant-ph/0005026.

There we make even clearer why it is not a question of which equation is more fundamental. But we don't need to go that far. The continuity comes from the real part of the Schrodinger equation. While the real part of the Schrodinger equation in which the 'quantum potential' appears is simply the conservation of energy equation when the energy is well defined. These equations are a pair of coupled differential equations. They co-determine each other. It doesn't make sense to choose one over the other. Thus if we put the Schrodinger equation centre stage then both the real and imaginary parts of this equation must be put on an equal footing.

I think what you have discovered is a causal matrix, which is NOT the quantum implicate order, but an abstract emanation from it, in the sense that in the beginning God said: div E = rho, div B = 0, etc. Your causal matrix in phase space is ontologically related to Heisenberg's interactionist interpretation, i.e., the Munich Interpretation. It is no coincidence that you both have a proclivity for abstract algebraic formulations, but that is NOT, IMHO, Bohm's approach, as he made clear in his response to King Saul (Epstein).

I have no comments on the rest of your e-mail.

Too bad.


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Dear Mr. Strieber,

I noticed the sudden upsurge of viewers of "A Deep Discussion With Basil Hiley" on my website this month and traced it to your Journal article for December, 2002. {Whitley Strieber's Journal article}

I find your article very interesting and in accord with my intellectual premises in life to a large degree. In fact, I maintain a maha-mandala on all walls of my two-bedroom apartment, and the images from your book "Communion" have for some time now played a conspicuous role.

So, when you talk about the aliens looking for a place in our lives, I guess I have been a shoe-in for them, because I right away assigned them a place in my spiritual life. Whether it is the place they in all respects desire is another question. Perhaps they are as uncertain as most of us about their proper place in life.

In any case, the role I have assigned them does have to do with both von Neumann and Wheeler, as you intuit in your Journal article. The connection with von Neumann has to do with his principle of the psycho-physical parallelism, which he popularized but attributed to Niels Bohr in a footnote of his famous book, "Mathematical Foundations of Quantum Mechanics."

The principle of the psycho-physical parallelism was for von Neumann what the principle of complementarity was for Niels Bohr. The former states that the extra-physical elements of the observational process can, for the purposes of science, be regarded as physical or at least in one-to-one correspondence with something physical.

I believe that the greys personify our sense of deep self (ens causa sui) with ongoing akashic memory. They are that deep sixth world phenomenon reduced to a borderline physical phenomenon by the principle of the psycho-physical parallelism.

In another sense, however, the golden version of the grey that is on the cover of your book, "Communion," symbolizes for me another type of reduction, the so-called phenomenological reduction of Husserl. This says that all of our emotional and mental nature can, for the purposes of philosophy, be regarded as essentially super-natural.

This is where we may disagree, because I notice that you maintain a bias against the notion of the super-natural. But in phenomenology, there is no such bias. The natural and psychic realms are precisely what must be excluded or suspended from consideration in the epoche or phenomenological reduction that is necessary to gain our true philosophical bearings. And yet nothing is lost in this reduction, precisely because the elements of the psychic and natural worlds are regarded as elements in the essentially super-natural world of true cause and effect.

We now know that cause and effect are essentially super-natural, because they do not exist per se within the quantum world of nature. They instead represent the ingression of the super-natural cause into the natural world, as effect. They express that which must be added extraneously, causing so much consternation to those who are not metaphysically minded. To those of us who are metaphysically minded, this auspicious development is the doorway to the acknowledgement of an authentic and complete sense of reality.

Well, enough for now. I would be glad to continue this line of discussion if anyone has an interest in it.

Peter Mutnick, December 31, 2002

Peter Joseph Mutnick 1949 - 2000