My promised post on the subject of quantum mechanics was almost finished (I decided to move a few things around so I could get it out of the way while my thoughts were still on the subject) when I dropped my keyboard and somehow accidentally hit a shortcut for "close tab".
I'm trying to decide how much of it I want to recreate. Bleh, I guess I'll go ahead and press on. Maybe it'll come out shorter this time, since I've effectively done a draft.
Okay, anyway... there was a reason I didn't want to do it without full net access, and that was, I wanted to be sure of my facts and terminology before I proceeded.
In doing the basic research, I realized that my specific argument against the immortality of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle applied to an outdated understanding of such that was discarded decades ago, but which is still in vogue among armchair scientists and even university-level instructors of physics who are looking for a simple way of explaining uncertainty to laypeople.
That discarded definition is the one that says that a pair of measurements are uncertain because measuring one with any certainty alters the other. This flows from something sometimes termed the "observer effect", but which could more accurately be described as the "hey, if you take something and smash the hell out of it with an object of comparable mass that's moving at the freaking speed of light effect".
It's not unique to the subatomic level. If I could somehow fling a human body at you at the speed of light, you'd better believe it would "affect your outcome."
What was held to be unique to the subatomic level was the fact that, when the particles are all about the size of photons (or smaller), anyway, and the only way we have of "seeing" something is by reflecting photons (or similar particle-wave-thingies) off something, then we cannot observe a subatomic particle without invoking the "hey, if you take something... effect".
All well and good so far, right?
Except that quantum physics (as the pop explanation for it goes) seemed to be proceeding from the line of reasoning:
We cannot know both the momentum AND the position of something like an electron with certainty, for the reasons above.
...therefore, it is as if only one of those pieces of information or (XOR) the other can exist at a time.
...since at any given point in time, we could measure either one... but they can't both exist at the same time... then it's as if we're calling the information into being.
...which means that the information (the electron's momentum and position) doesn't exist until we measure it.
...which means the electron does not have any fixed position, but effectively exists in all positions at once along its path.
Now, I hasten to point out that in the actual study of quantum physics, uncertainty derives from the wave-particle duality and not the "hey, if you... effect." The "hey, if you... effect" was only the first explanation proferred by Heisenberg, and the one that stuck in the public consciousness, probably due to its (relative) simplicity.
But going with the version I was familiar with (going back to when I was 14 and involved in a chat room argument that spiraled into a months-long e-mail debate with a university physics instructor, who was using the above reasoning. His e-mail address matched the one on the university's webpage for the person he claimed to be.)... it's clear to me that such a scientific principle could not possibly stand the test of time (and yay me, I was more right in thinking that than I knew)... for two inter-connected reasons.
First, it starts with the assumption that our measurement alters the properties in question... and concludes that, for all practical purposes, they do not exist until the measurement takes place. That's fine... for all practical purposes... but our assumption admits their existence. The impact alters the electron's position, and since we can't measure it beforehand (before we measure it), it's like we created its position... but it isn't so.
Second, it depends on the assumption that we'll never find another, better way of measuring something. That's a downright arrogant and stupid assumption to make in any course of scientific inquiry. It's the sort of assumption that gets you put in books of famous dumb predictions, next to "someday, computers may be twice as powerful and only weigh half a ton." That we may not be able to, at this point, say what those other and better means of measurement could be, does not in any way change the fact that they could come about.
As it happens, we can say what those other means of measurement may be: quantum entanglement was mentioned on the wikipedia article... and I'm operating under the impression that there are multiple forces at work between bits of matter that don't involve direct contact. Any one of those could form the basis of a new system of measurement, in the future.
So, looking at a version of the uncertainty principle which states that certain information effectively does not exist based on the idea that we can not, at present time and with present tools, get to that information... well, yeah. Weak.
Pre-emptive note to anybody who wants to say that even still, I failed to disprove even the pop version of the uncertainty principle: none of the above is supposed to be an actual refutation or disproof of anything... it's simply an illustration of how such is susceptible... vulnerable even... to being disproven.
I lack sufficient understanding of the uncertainty principle as it stands now to offer as strong an explanation for HOW it will be overturned, but I maintain: it will very likely happen.
It's still based on the idea that we can never refine our understanding of the universe or our tools for measuring such to get past a particular level of "resolution."
It's likely very true that the assumptions of quantum mechanics could not be overturned without a significant shift in our way of looking at the universe, at matter and energy, at mathematics, etc., etc., etc....
...but hasn't that ever happened before?
Isn't that the sort of (hee hee) "quantum shift" in thinking that quantum mechanics itself brought about?
"Well, uh... this time we got it right, forever!"
Yeah, okay, whatever.
If you say, "We have reached the absolute limit of the ability to accurately measure this." or "We have reached the pinnacle of human understanding in this area."... future generations will laugh at you. That's axiomatic. The only way around it is if we run out of future generations before it hapens.
At the same time, quantum mechanics appear to hold true... based on our current thinking, our current math, our current understanding of the universe. We shouldn't simply discard them.
Future generations will laugh at the silly clothes we wear now (and if you ask me to offer proof that the clothes we wear now are silly, or to tell yuo what future generations will be wearing... you're missing the point), but that's no reason to go around naked all the time.
And, in line with what Jp said on the other post's comment thread, I don't think quantum physics will be completely discarded. They'll still have their place in the new system that unseats them.
What I predict will be scorned is the idea that we had found, at this time and place in human civilization, the limit beyond which something could not be measured... that anything beyond our current grasp to measure not only effectively did not exist, but did not exist in fact and objective reality.
Nothing was ever gained by a scientist looking at the phrase "We cannot..." and saying, "Okay, good to know that. I'll go work on something else."
As Popisfizzy put it, "You seem to imply there's a definite chance that quantum physics is wrong."
Damn skippy I do.
It's absurd beyond the point of making an extraordinary claim to suggest otherwise.