Holistic Physics (Nick Herbert)

http://www.southerncrossreview.org/16/herbert.essay.htm

“Whenever an object–bulldog, baseball, or baryon–is not under observation, quantum physicists represent that object as a “wave of probability”, called the object’s “wave function”. Instead of definite values for attributes such as position, velocity and spin, each of the object’s attributes takes on–in the mathematics at least–a wide range of possible values, values that oscillate in a wavelike manner at a variety of different frequencies. This way of treating unobserved objects is one of quantum theory’s most peculiar features. Physicists treat an unobserved object not as a real thing but as a probability wave, not as an actual happening but only as a bundle of vibratory possibilities.

On the other hand, when an object is observed, it always manifests at one particular place, with one particular spin and velocity, instead of a smeared-out range of physical properties. During the act of measurement, the mathematical description abruptly shifts–from a spread-out range of possible attributes (unmeasured object) to single-valued actual attributes (measured object). This sudden measurement-induced switch of descriptions is called “the collapse of the wave function”, or simply “the quantum jump”. What actually happens during a quantum jump is the biggest mystery in quantum physics. Whether this drastic shift in the mathematical description corresponds to an actual dislocation in the real world or is a purely mathematical quirk continues to be a matter of deep controversy in the physics community.”

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