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One of the best-kept secrets of science--a veritable skeleton in the science closet--is the fact that physicists have lost their grip on reality. Quantum theory is the most comprehensive and accurate theory known to man, describing nature at all scales from quark to quasar and forming the foundation for numerous technologies including lasers, semiconductors and nuclear power. But the price physicists have paid for this powerful theory is the loss of an overall picture of how the world works. "Who could have imagined", Einstein once remarked about this reality crisis in physics, "that we would come to know so much yet understand so little?"

Quantum theory describes the world in terms of wave-like possibilities, when not observed; which change into (the so-called "collapse of the wavefunction") particle-like actualities (quanta) when looked at. Particles when you look; waves when you don't. What a strange way physicists have of dealing with the ordinary world! And to make things worse not one of us can tell you what it means to "look". "What is an observation?" is the biggest unsolved question in physics. The problem of observation lies at the the heart of the physicist's reality crisis.

"Quantum Reality" examines what "reality" means to a physicist including case histories of a reality that failed (the luminiferous ether) and a reality that succeeded (the atomicity of matter). Besides not being able to say what they mean by "observation", one further symptom of the reality crisis is the number of candidate realities proposed to explain the same quantum facts: all of these quantum realities are bizarre and none of them quite satisfactory.

"Quantum Reality" describes eight of these candidate realities ranging from Hugh Everett's Many-Worlds Model thru Quantum Logic and Undivided Wholeness to the No-Reality stance of Niels Bohr and his colleagues. Nick evenhandedly examines the merits of these realities and some of their liabilities: since some of these realities contradict others, not all of them can be true.

One of the key discoveries in the field of quantum reality was the proof by John Stewart Bell that the quantum world must be non-local--connected by influences that are unmediated, unmitigated and immediate (faster-than-light). QR presents one of the clearest and most comprehensive discussions of Bell's Theorem, its critics and how the faster-than-light nature of quantum theory can co-exist with the slower-than-light requirements of Einstein's relativity theory.

"Nothing exposes the perplexity at the heart of physics more starkly than certain preposterous-sounding claims a few outspoken physicists are making concerning how the world really works. If we take these clains at face value, the stories physicists tell resemble the tales of mystics and madmen. Physicists are quick to reject such unsavory associations and insist that they speak sober fact. We do not make these claims out of ignorance, they say, like ancient mapmakers filling in terra incognitas with plausible geography. Not ignorance, but the emergence of unsuspected knowledge forces on us all new visions of the way things really are." (QR p 16)

"In the case of Bell's proof, one can continue to believe in a local reality by denying one of Bell's assumptions. However because Bell's proof is so short and most of his assumptions accessible to experiment, such additional suppositions are not easy to find. Hence the various negations of Bell's conclusion tend to be rather farfetched and lead to realities more preposterous than the superluminal reality they attempt to exorcise." (QR p 234)

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