Turning Popper Around To Make Everett An Appendix To Einstein
    By Sascha Vongehr | January 23rd 2013 05:59 AM | 5 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Sascha

    Dr. Sascha Vongehr [风洒沙] studied phil/math/chem/phys in Germany, obtained a BSc in theoretical physics (electro-mag) & MSc (stringtheory)...

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    A century ago, “past” and “future”, previously strictly apart, mixed up and merged.  Temporal terminology improved.  Today, not actualized quantum states, that is merely “possible” alternatives, objectively “exist” (are real) when they interfere.  Again, two previously strictly immiscible realms mix.  Today, not temporal, but modal terminology (~ how to use the word "possible") is insufficient.

    The full unification of relativity and quantum mechanics can gain momentum from modal realism, which is basically just the realization of that my present situation is a contingent alternative, or equivalently, that all possible futures will be actualized.  This is self-evident* and for half a century also empirically confirmed by quantum mechanical experiments.  Einstein relativity and Everett relativity are both merely different aspects of the underlying modal relativity between alternative situations in which observers can find themselves in.

    The new paper “Historical Parallels between, and Modal Realism underlying Einstein and Everett Relativities” argues this topic via a detailed comparison between the improvement of temporal terminology due to Einstein’s special relativity and a similar development in quantum mechanics.  Because of its careful treatment of special relativity, it should be interesting even to those who do not care for the quantum issues (see below).  Nevertheless, the main topic is that both types of relativity are very similar throughout:

    Both times, extreme reactions reach from rejection of the empirical science to mystic holism.  This paper shows how progress started with the relativization of previously absolute terms, first through Einstein’s relativity and now through Everett’s relative state description, which is a modal realism.  The historical parallels suggest mere relativization is insufficient.  A deformation of domains occurs:  The determined past and the dependent future were restricted to smaller regions of space-time.  This ‘light cone description’ is superior to hyperspace foliations and already entails the modal realism of quantum mechanics.

    Moreover, an entirely new region, namely the ‘absolute elsewhere’ was identified.  The historical precedent suggests that modal terminology may need a similar extension. [1]


    Fig 1: (a) Galilean relativistic Newton space-time, i.e. space, namely the x-direction, living through absolute time t = t*: The t-axis is observer O’s world line while the t*-axis represents the history of observer O*. (b) Einstein relativistic Minkowski space-time: O* moves with about a third of the velocity of light to the right. The event E occurs at t larger t0 but at t* smaller t0, although both observers meet at t0 and synchronize their clocks then.  There is an entirely new region that is neither dependent future nor determined past, called the “absolute elsewhere”. [1]

    Einstein and Everett relativities are not similar due to mere accident.  They are fundamentally the same.  Discussing the modal realistic connection underlying both relativities, Popper’s proof [2] of future indeterminism is turned upside down (also previously done here) in order to shatter the past already (not the future) into many worlds/minds.  As a result, quantum mechanics turns out to be the Bell inequality violating correlation between those possible empirical pasts, but basic Everett relativity between those pasts was there all along.


    Please have a read and comment here or privately via email about where the paper could be improved in your opinion.


    * Those who claim that modal realism is not self-evident usually do not know what "realism" means and/or refuse to grasp the difference between pop-science many-world quantum mechanics and contingency (the latter being a general concept that is much more fundamental than any particular theory in physics).

    [1] S. Vongehr: “Historical Parallels between, and Modal Realism underlying Einstein and Everett Relativities.” arXiv:1108.1674(2013)

    [2] K. Popper: “The Open Universe: An Argument for Indeterminism.” Roman and Littlefield, Lanham, MD (1956)



    I'm very glad to see that you are arguing using Everett’s relative state interpretation/description, rather than the more popularized Many-World's (even though Everett apparently preferred Many-Worlds).  I've always preferred his Relative-State approach (though his Many-Worlds dissertation does have a great many good tidbits, as well).

    Unfortunately, I'll have to get to your actual paper sometime later.


    The topic has been so distorted in popular science, mention "Many-Worlds" and half the audience goes into seizure.  Many-Worlds never meant to say that the atom is an assembly of many classical worlds where the electron has a certain position, or that a double slit splits the universe into two worlds where the photon goes really along one of the paths.
    Many-Minds turns 100% of the audience off, so I stick with Everett relativity now, because it is a famous name, and so people may at least read the abstract.  As you mentioned, Everett indeed had ontological commitment to those worlds as real branches (!), and that is thus a more naive position than mere modal realism.  Big name is the game. ;-)
    Boscovich dealt with the multi-universe idea. Popper refers to it as Kant-Boscovich unified metaphysical theory of physics. I think Everett got hold of Boscovich's multi-uiverse idea through LL Whyte. Via historian dealing with Wheeler geometrodynamics, refers to it as first attempt at unified field theory.


    Not sure why you mention multi-universe. Many-World is not the same as multiverse or splitting space-time (though of course there are connections).
    Indeed. The splitting universes kind of many worlds has always struck me as nice for stories, but rather simplistic simply based on one thing:

    The SciFi using this idea always seems to revolve around huge macroscopic events - Lincoln getting shot, Germany winning WW2, etc.

    However, looking at how it's presented, what's really supposed to be happening is that within each "planck volume", every quantumly allowed transition takes place - all possible virtual particles popping into existence, with the full spread of allowed energy states - or existing virtual particles decaying by any and all possible paths, no matter how unlikely... And all of this happening in *EVERY* *SINGLE* planck volume within the universe, repeating *each* and *every* quantum of planck time. There would not be a nice neat "tree" of timelines which could be followed back and then forward to a new "present", there would be a nice smooth "fog" of universes blending as smoothly as space-time already appears to us. The numbers of universes that would be in existence by now would start off by using a googolplex as the base *AND* the exponent, I would think...

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