Hidden Variables
Why a Hidden Variable Forum? - Printable Version

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Why a Hidden Variable Forum? - Schmelzer - 12-20-2015

This forum has the aim to discuss Hidden Variable Theories - theories of modern physics which contain objects which cannot be completely measured or observed, so that at least some of their properties remain unobservable, or hidden, variables.  

In some weak sense, all theories of fundamental physics contain such hidden variables: Nor strings, nor the forces of GUTs, nor supersymmetric partners of the known particles are observable with our actual possibilities. What distinguishes the hidden variable theories considered here is that to observe them was not considered to be a problem at all in classical physics:  In relativity, the existence of space and time as separate entities is problematic, because it would violate Lorentz invariance.  In quantum theory, it is the existence of reality itself, of trajectories of physical objects, which is problematic because of the uncertainty relations.  

So, modern physics does not contain descriptions of things which play an important role in our everyday life. But if something is not described by our best physical theories, why should we assume that it exists? Proponents of  hidden variable theories think they exist, and that they are not described by our actual physical theories is caused by their incompleteness. That's why they invent new, more complete, physical theories which contain their description in form of hidden variables. Their opponents disagree. They argue what cannot be measured has no place in physics. Behind this are philosophical and methodological disagreements, especially the conflict between realism and positivism, but also different ideas about the future development of science.  

This is not only an inner-scientific dispute. Given that space, time and reality are ideas everybody understands and uses in everyday life, the idea that they have no place in modern physics is interesting not only for physicists and philosophers, but also for interested laymen.  We seem to have a conflict between common sense and modern physics.  Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and, once science seems to claim that ideas everybody uses in everyday life are wrong, it has to present this extraordinary evidence to laymen too.  And, given that what common sense tells is , it has to be expected that not all people are ready to accept this evidence as sufficient. 

This indeed happens, and this has quite unfortunate consequences. Discussions tend to degenerate into personal disputes

Those who do not accept these aspects of modern physics tend to reject modern physics completely. , scientists , even the whole of modern science completely and invent conspiracy theories about a relativistic conspiracy against Truth.  They participate in all physics forums they can access and distort the discussions with their anti-scientific claims. This often degenerates into aggressive flame wars. To prevent this, the moderation of physics forums often heavily restrict discussions about hidden variables.  

This is a natural reaction, but problematic, because the discussion about these questions is important for the communication between science and laymen: 
  • If modern physics is in contradiction with common sense ideas about  such fundamental things as space, time, and reality, there should be places to discuss these questions. 
  • These discussions should be open to interested laymen, so that they can ask questions and express their doubts.  
  • This is independent of the scientific value of their arguments - it is science which claims that some of their common sense ideas are wrong, and, given that it is science and not a dogmatic religious belief system, science has to justify this with arguments.
It should be noted that the scientific dispute between proponents of Hidden Variable Theories and the mainstream of physics is not unproblematic too. The proponents of Hidden Variable Theories are only a small minority, which is widely ignored by the mainstream.  In the domain of quantum theory, there have been over a long time only a few lonely fighters - Bohm, Nelson, Bell.  Fortunately, during the last years the interest in hidden variable interpretations, especially in de Broglie-Bohm theory, of quantum theory, has increased.  In the domain of the ether, there was nobody over a long time, now there is Jacobson with his Einstein-aether and the founder of this forum.  So, they are clearly in a minority. But, given that they publish papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals, they are nonetheless part of the scientific community.  

I think that the discussion between proponents of Hidden Variable theories and the mainstream is important for laymen too, because it heavily influences the question if there is a conflict between modern physics and common sense or not. Here, the main question is if the proposed Hidden Variable Theories are viable as physical theories today, or if they are in contradiction with observation.  Once they appear viable, it follows that laymen do not have to give up some of their common sense ideas about space, time, and reality.  The seriousness of the objections of the mainstream against these theories will be of interest for laymen too - they define the seriousness of the objections of modern physics against their common sense ideas about space, time and reality.