Theoretical physicist: quantum theory must be replaced

Recently, we published an article featuring the opinions of a well-known science writer John Horgan who talked about a really strange element of quantum physics confirmed by recent experiments – that there seems to be no knowledge outside the minds of observers.

Theoretician physician Sabine Hossenfelder East decidedly unhappy with this approach:

Physicists have shown that objective reality does not exist. This is allegedly an idea derived from quantum mechanics. And not only that, it has been confirmed experimentally. Really? How to prove that reality does not exist? Was it really done? And should we stop saying “really” now? That’s what we’re going to talk about today.

Many of you have asked me to comment on those headlines claiming that reality does not exist. This is a case where physicists have outdone themselves in trying to make linear algebra mysterious. The result is patently absurd.

Sabine HossenfelderHas quantum mechanics proven that reality does not exist?” at ReturnRe(Action) (February 19, 2022)

Hossenfelder acknowledges the experiences of which Horgan speaks, beginning with Eugene Wignerthought experiment, “Wigner’s Friend”, what has been confirmed in the lab (with photons as opposed to friends):

Suppose Alice, Wigner’s friend, is in a laboratory and does an experiment like the one we just talked about. Wigner waits outside the door. Inside the lab, the particle hits the screen with a 50% chance left or right. When Alice measures the particle, the wave function collapses and it’s either left or right. She then opens the door and tells Wigner what she measured.

But how would Wigner describe the experience? He only finds out if the particle went left or right when his friend tells him. So, according to quantum mechanics, Wigner must assume that before knowing what happened, Alice is in a superposition of two states. One in which the particle has gone left and it knows it has gone left. And one in which it went well and she knows it went well.

The problem now is that according to Alice, the result of her measurement was never in a superposition, whereas for Wigner it was. So they don’t agree on what happened. Reality seems to be subjective.

Sabine HossenfelderHas quantum mechanics proven that reality does not exist?” at ReturnRe(Action) (February 19, 2022)

In Hossenfelder’s view, this shouldn’t be a big deal because in a real experiment, the measurement happens when Alice measures the particle hitting the screen. There is no overlap.

But here’s the problem she pursues by identifying:

Because in the standard interpretation of quantum mechanics, updating the wave function is not a physical process. It’s just a mathematical update of your knowledge, which you do after learning something new about the system. This is not accompanied by any physical change. And if Alice didn’t physically change anything then, according to Wigner, she must indeed have been in an overlay herself.

Sabine HossenfelderHas quantum mechanics proven that reality does not exist?” at ReturnRe(Action) (February 19, 2022)

She is unhappy with the outcome of the experiments, offering “If you claim that a single photon is an observer making a measurement, that’s not just a fanciful interpretation, that’s nonsense.” She thinks a new theory of quantum mechanics is needed:

So to sum up, no one has proven that reality does not exist and no experiment has confirmed it. Rather, what these headlines tell you is that physicists are slowly coming to see that quantum mechanics is inherently inconsistent and needs to be replaced by a better theory, one that describes what is physically happening in a measurement. And when they find this theory, it will be the breakthrough of the century.

Sabine HossenfelderHas quantum mechanics proven that reality does not exist?” at ReturnRe(Action) (February 19, 2022)

Now the interesting thing is that Hossenfelder is comfortable with how weird classical particle physics can be. Take neutrinos, for example”

First, they are the only particles that only interact with the weak nuclear force. All other particles known to us interact with either the electromagnetic force or the strong nuclear force or both. And the weak nuclear force is weak. This is why neutrinos rarely interact with anything. Most of the time, they just pass through matter without leaving a trace. This is why they are often referred to as “ghostly”. While you listened to this sentence, about 10 to 15 neutrinos passed through you.

That’s not the only reason neutrinos are weird. What’s even weirder is that all three types of neutrino flavors mix together. This means that if you start with, say, only electron neutrinos, they will convert to muon neutrinos as they travel. And then they will convert back into electron neutrinos. So, depending on how far you make a measurement from a source, you will get more electron neutrinos or more muon neutrinos. Crazy! But it’s true.

Sabine HossenfelderThe physical anomaly no one talks about: what’s going on with these neutrinos?” at ReturnRe(Action) (September 18, 2021)

The global behavior of neutrinos, she tells us, is incompatible with the standard model of physics. But it’s a “crazy” situation that she accepts more easily.

We might conclude that the universe is a stranger place than we have sometimes been led to suspect, and that the amount and type of weirdness each of us can tolerate depends, to some degree, on previous commitments. But the universe is what it is anyway.

You can also read:

Study: Science fiction is not as weird as the reality of quantum physics. At least, that’s what we can assume from a failed effort to disprove physicist Eugene Wigner’s thought experiment. The research (and resulting QBism) eliminates the possibility that the mind is just an illusion. Outside the mind of the observers there is no knowledge.


Some elements of our universe do not make scientific sense. Well-attested observations of neutrinos are not compatible with the standard model of our universe accepted by most physicists. Theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder tells us why neutrinos, nearly massless and chargeless particles, confuse expectations.

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