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Microscopic and Macroscopic Quantum Realms.

The quantum mechanical description of reality and its relevance and implications for the Christian faith plays a central role in the physics theme of the March 2014 issue of PSCF. Mann correlates the recent progress in physics with Christian theology by considering typicality, plurality, reduction, quantization, and eternity. (1) Faries emphasizes the challenge of chance and quantum physics to a theological worldview. (2) Carlson and Hine consider the question on how to integrate randomness in the physical world with our theological thinking. (3)

Quantum entanglement lies at the foundation of quantum mechanics. Witness Schrodinger highlighting entanglement with his puzzling cat thought experiment and Einstein deriding it as "spooky action at a distance." (4) Nonetheless, quantum entanglement has been verified experimentally and is essential for quantum information and quantum computing. The quantum superposition principle, together with entanglement, dramatically contrasts the quantum from the classical description of reality. This issue of PSCF helps integrate physical reality with a Christian worldview.

The question of the interpretation and the measurement problem in quantum mechanics is important since it clarifies and gives us an insight on how to reconcile physical reality with our Christian faith. (5) Van Kampen has written extensively on how quantum mechanics successfully explains macroscopic, objective, recorded phenomena. (6) The latter are the experimental data one obtains for microscopic objects that interact with a macroscopic measuring apparatus prepared in a metastable state, for example, the Wilson cloud chamber and the Geiger counter. Van Kampen emphasizes that the wave function [psi], which obeys the Schrodinger equation, is not observed directly. For instance, in the diffraction of a beam of electrons passing through a crystal, [psi] for a single electron is calculated but the physically observed quantity is N| [psi] |2, where N is the number of electrons in the beam. (7) It is, in this sense, that quantum mechanics provides a complete and adequate description of the observed physical phenomena on the atomic scale.

Van Kampen argues against various interpretations of quantum mechanics, for example, Bohm's hidden variables, de Broglie's pilot wave function, a nonlinear interaction with our consciousness, stochastic, and Everett's many-world interpretations. (8) Van Kampen agrees with Bohr on how to understand the formalism of quantum mechanics but differs from Bohr's theory of measurements and so also differs with what is commonly known as the Copenhagen interpretation. Van Kampen makes it clear how macroscopic observations can be recorded objectively, independently of the observation and the observer, and may be the object of scientific studies. (9)

The meaning of a macroscopic object (e.g., as a certain amount of a gas, a crystal, a pointer on a volt meter, a cat, human beings) is crucial since it makes it clear that although also governed by quantum mechanics, nonetheless, the combination of the enormous number of quantum states in the macroscopic object eliminates the quantum interference between macroscopic states, say, two human beings. Accordingly, macroscopic objects deal with probabilities rather than probability amplitudes, namely, a classical description by a density matrix rather than a wave function. (10)

Einstein refused to believe in the notion of the entanglement of two far-apart electrons. (11) This is a consequence of thinking of an electron as a localized particle rather than as a manifestation of a wave function. In fact, the universe is made of quantized fields, not particles, which implies, nonetheless, that fields exhibit many particle-like aspects. Clauser first established experimentally the discreteness of photons in 1974 by results that contradict the predictions by any classical or semiclassical theory. (12)


(1) R. B. Mann, "Physics at the Theological Frontiers," Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 66, no. 1 (2014): 2-12.

(2) D. W. Faries, "A Personal God, Chance, and Randomness in Quantum Physics," Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 66, no. 1 (2014): 13-22.

(3) R. F. Carlson and J. N. Hine, "Two Interlocking Stories: Job and Natural Evil and Modern Science and Randomness," Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 66, no. 1 (2014): 23-34.

(4) Mann, "Physics at the Theological Frontiers," 12.

(5) Faries, "A Personal God, Chance, and Randomness."

(6) N. G. Van Kampen, "Ten Theorems about Quantum Mechanical Measurements," Physica A 153 (1988): 97-113; --, "The Scandal of Quantum Mechanics," American Journal of Physics 76, no. 11 (2008): 989-90.

(7) Van Kampen, "Ten Theorems about Quantum Mechanical Measurements."

(8) Van Kampen, "The Scandal of Quantum Mechanics."

(9) Van Kampen, "Ten Theorems about Quantum Mechanical Measurements."

(10) Ibid.

(11) Mann, "Physics at the Theological Frontiers," 12; Faries, "A Personal God, Chance, and Randomness."

(12) J. F. Clauser, "Experimental Distinction between the Quantum and Classical Field-Theoretic Predictions for the Photoelectric Effect," Physical Review D 9, no. 4 (1974): 853-60.

Moorad Alexanian

ASA Member

Department of Physics and Physical Oceanography University of North Carolina Wilmington
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Author:Alexanian, Moorad
Publication:Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Jun 1, 2014
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