Friday, March 20, 2009

Physics: A peek behind the veil of reality earns physicist Templeton Prize

In "Work on 'veiled reality' earns French physicist $1.4 million award", Brendan Conway
reports (Christian Science Monitor, March 17, 2009) that
"French physicist Bernard d' Espagnat won the 2009 Templeton Prize for his exploration of a reality that exists beyond observable phenomena."
The annually award prize is worth $1.4 million.

D'Espagnat, a professor emeritus at the University of Paris-Orsay,
wrote 20 books, countless papers and articles, and is best known for positing that matter everywhere is entangled in a "veiled reality" that exists beneath time, space, and energy.
The veiled reality is, of course, the entangled quantum world. It halfway reminds me of Francis Thompson's (1859-1907) poem:
O WORLD invisible, we view thee,
O world intangible, we touch thee,
O world unknowable, we know thee,
Inapprehensible, we clutch thee!
I think the ol' "Hound of Heaven" quarry had a purely spiritual world in mind, but perhaps the quantum world is a dim reflection of that. One thing it isn't is the crass materialism so often fronted as "science" in popular media.

In 1981-82,
A team of physicists under the French physicist Alain Aspect found that a change in polarization of a photon miles from a separate photon could be detected in both – and it would all happen faster than the speed of light. This violated a series of principles on the behavior of particles.

For instance, it challenged a basic premise of classical physics: Nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. That, at least, would be true if "travel" is the operative word.
Perhaps it isn't. The photons do not behave as if they are travelling faster than light. They behave as if there is no space between them. That is the famous "action at a distance" which is supposed to be impossible.

D'Espagnat doesn't claim he can unveil the veiled reality. He told Conway,
"It's not that science will explain the ultimate reality of certain objects or events," d'Espagnat said. "Rather, it is that the concepts we use, such as space, time, causality, and so on, ... are not applicable to ultimate reality."
Perhaps they are best described as the names we give to what we ourselves experience, so we can communicate with each other. But we must not demand that ultimate reality be what we discuss.

Note: The photo is of d'Espagnat.

See also:

Quantum mechanics and popular culture: Artist's kit offers chance to produce trillions of universes; Quantum theory and popular culture: Hit job on - of all people - Paul Dirac?;
Science fiction: Reflections on the nature of time; A theory of almost everything is the best we can do?; No escape from philosophy through equations; Can reincarnation save Schrodinger's cat? Could God live in an infinite sea of universes? It depends ... Quantum mechanics: Could cosmic microwave background show that it is wrong?