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Quantum theory and the observation problem

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Abstract:

Although quantum theory is applicable, in principle, to both the microscopic and macroscopic realms, the strategy of practically applying quantum theory by retaining a classical conception of the macroscopic world (through the correspondence principle) has had tremendous success. This has nevertheless rendered the task of interpretation daunting. We argue the need for recognizing and solving the ‘observation problem', namely constructing a ‘quantum-compatible’ view of the properties and states of macroscopic objects in everyday thinking to realistically interpret quantum theory consistently at both the microscopic and macroscopic levels. Toward a solution to this problem, we point out a category of properties called ‘relational properties’ that we regularly associate with everyday objects. We see them as being potentially quantum-compatible. Some possible physical implications are discussed. We conclude by touching upon the nexus between the relational property view within quantum physics and some neurobiological issues underlying cognition.

Keywords: Bohr; Bohr-Einstein debate; Copenhagen; Einstein; Quantum theory; cat paradox; complementarity; consciousness; duality; holism; information; interpretation; measurement problem; observation; ordinary language; relational properties; scientific realism; wave-particle

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Bhaktivedanta Institute, Juhu Road, Juhu, Bombay 400049, India or 2334 Stuart Street, Berkeley, CA 94705, USA.

Publication date: 1999-11-01

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