Every now and then I open “The Elegant Universe” and read a couple chapters. I like that book. If you don’t know, it’s a great book about string theory that explains other concepts of physics, like relativity and quantum mechanics quite well.

At first, a disclaimer. I am not a scientist. I just like to read about it and think. I may be completely off mark here. All I am saying is that this is what I ended up thinking.

Back to the topic. I was reading the chapter about Quantum theory and how Quantum theory predicts infinite probability of certain events in black holes. With the current mathematical understanding of probability, the probability of all the possible outcomes of an event should add up to 1. So what does any value of probability, may it be 2, 10 or infinity really mean? On the face it seems nonsense.

But if you think about probability a little differently, it does make sense.

When we think of events and their probability, one thing we always take for granted is presence of observer and the act of observation. So essentially we are not taking about events, but about “event-observations”. And what we call probability today is formed of two factors -“happenabiliy” and “observability”. Observability is what we always take for granted.

When a event-observation occurs, there is some energy of the system under observation and there is some energy used to observe it. In most of the real life, the energy used to observe is so small compared to the energy of the system observed that it does not disturb the system that much.

Imagine a bag containing a black ball and white ball. If you take out a ball and it is black, the probability of the ball in the bag being white is 1. But that is provided the photons used for observation do not change the color of the ball.

If you used sufficiently high energy photons, you might significantly change the color of the balls while observing, may be by burning the surface of the ball or something. Thus, in spite of you using one black and one white balls, the probability of a ball being white or black will be smaller than 0.5 each. Thus the (probability of drawing white ball + probability of drawing black ball) will not be equal to 1. For sufficiently high energy photons, the combined probability (black and white) will be almost zero. This is a case where the observation has a high chance to disturb the system/event.

In other side extreme case, if it is impossible for observation to disturb the system, i.e. in case of black hole, where the amount of energy of system is infinite, making observation impossible, the probability should be infinite.

In scientific terms if I have to define observability, I will define it as the ratio of (enthalpy of the system-event / enthalpy of the observer). As this ratio starts approaching zero, observability goes to zero and the probability goes to infinity.

This brings us to the boundary of a very serious scientific issue. Even if you and I both are observing the same ball, we are using different photons. So in effect we have two event-observations. Or in another words, what you are watching is slightly different from what I am watching. That means every experience in reality is subjective. That literally threatens to pull the rug under the feet of science. Because we all agree that we don’t call it science unless it’s verifiable and it’s not verifiable unless it’s objective. No place for subjectivity.

Or is it? About a century back the world of physics was still Newtonian. Everything was absolute. Einstein shattered this world and introduced the concept of relativity. He postulated that the world looks different if you are in different frame of reference and and if there are discrepancies in different worlds as observed from different frames of reference, there is no way to reconcile. It’s just different experience.

May be we are at crossroads and need to make a decision. Science needs to be logical first or verifiable first? If it needs to be logical more than verifiable, then the natural logical development of the facts at our hand is subjectivity, the fact that your experience of an event and my experience of an event will be different and if there is an discrepancy, we will never be able to resolve it. If we really dig deep, we might find that the speed of light and other physics constants are slightly different for you and for me. Even in the same reference frame, the world relative to you is different from the world relative to me.

Thus, subjectivity might be the new relativity.

Filed under: Energy, Engineering, Mathematics, Philosophy, Science & Technology, Thoughts Tagged: | briane greene, einstein, plank, quantum theory, relativity, string theory, subjectivity, the elegant universe

Reema, on September 3, 2013 at 3:29 am said:Appealing and resonates. Had nothing better to say before, but this here co-relates:

“It was there that Heisenberg and Bohr came to Einstein to tell him it looked like the minds of the researchers were affecting the results of the experiments.” http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/water-great-mystery/

desicontrarian, on March 20, 2014 at 6:22 pm said:F. Capra and Gary Zukov have written quite a lot on this topic. A more precise terminology for experiments in particle physics is suggested – Participant rather than Observer.