`Ceci n'est pas un Quantum'

Dr Alastair Rae, Birmingham

Drawing an analogy with Magritte's painting ('Ceci n'est pas une Pipe'), this talk attempts to explore the relationship between physical reality and the theoretical structures of physics. A distinction will be drawn between the behaviour of physical objects and the theories that describe this behaviour: It will be suggested that, at least in classical physics, a theory is analogous to a map - not the thing itself, but a source of information that has a one-to-one correspondence with every aspect of it. We shall attempt to extend the map analogy to quantum physics, where we shall find that it has to be replaced by a 'map book', each of whose pages describe a set of 'consistent families' made up of 'histories'; each history within a given family has a probability of representing reality. To apply quantum physics to any particular physical situation, we chose the page that is appropriate to the particular context; this may change during the evolution of a physical process and we shall consider how this concept may be used to resolve some of the standard conceptual problems of quantum physics. The talk will end with a short discussion of how the concept of 'memetics' may be applied to assess the truth values of different interpretations of quantum physics.

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