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11 - Why the quantum? “It” from “bit”? A participatory universe? Three far-reaching challenges from John Archibald Wheeler and their relation to experiment

from Part IV - Quantum reality: experiment

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 March 2011

Anton Zeilinger
Affiliation:
University of Vienna
John D. Barrow
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
Paul C. W. Davies
Affiliation:
Macquarie University, Sydney
Charles L. Harper, Jr
Affiliation:
John Templeton Foundation
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Summary

Introduction

First a word of thanks. When I first came across the papers of John Archibald Wheeler on the foundations of quantum mechanics, most of them reprinted in Wheeler and Zurek (1983), I could not believe what I read. Finally here was a colleague of worldwide reputation, given his many contributions to theoretical physics, who was not afraid to discuss openly the conceptual problems of quantum mechanics. The outstanding feature of Professor Wheeler's viewpoint is his realization that the implications of quantum mechanics are so far-reaching that they require a completely novel approach in our view of reality and in the way we see our role in the universe. This distinguishes him from many others who in one way or another tried to save pre-quantum viewpoints, particularly the obviously wrong notion of a reality independent of us.

Particularly remarkable is Professor Wheeler's austerity in thinking. He tries to use as few concepts as possible and to build on this the whole of physics. A fascinating case in point is the title of one of his papers “Law without law,” the attempt to arrive at the laws of nature without assuming any law a priori.

For me personally his work on fundamental issues in quantum mechanics has been particularly inspiring. The questions he raises are exceptionally far-reaching and some of his concepts in the foundations of physics are so radical that calling them revolutionary would not do them justice.

Type
Chapter
Information
Science and Ultimate Reality
Quantum Theory, Cosmology, and Complexity
, pp. 201 - 220
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2004

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