This is Episode 3, "The Block Universe from Special Relativity," of the video series, "Beyond the Dynamical Universe: Rising to Wilczek's Challenge."
This is Episode 2, "Dynamical vs Adynamical Explanation," of the video series, "Beyond the Dynamical Universe: Rising to Wilczek's Challenge."
In order to explain the main claim of our book for a general audience, I produced a video series, "Beyond the Dynamical Universe: Rising to Wilczek's Challenge." In Episode 1, "Mermin over Smolin: Quantum Mechanics is Right," I introduce the theme of the series and myself, then I provide a definition of physics per Einstein and give Wilczek's challenge.
In this explanation of the Tsirelson bound, we see that both special relativity and quantum mechanics are rooted in "no preferred reference frame." To borrow from Einstein, that means no one's "sense experiences" can evidence a favored perspective on the "real external world." This talk was given at Linnaeus University, Sweden, for the conference, "Quantum Information Revolution: Impact to Foundations?"
I am not sold that the adynamical picture is truly explanatory. Philosophers of science have proposed objective accounts of explanation, but they all recognize there’s a strong sense in which explanation is ‘explanation for us,’ and any account should capture our intuition that explanation is fundamentally dynamical. This is connected with causation: intuitively, we explain an event because we find its causes; causes happen before their effects and ‘bring them about.’
Beyond or Above? The AdynamicalExplanation Meets Ontological Contextuality without a Fundamental Level. Valia Allori (2019).
In this review for the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Karen Crowther shows that she "gets it" in the very first sentence:
Many of the greatest problems in fundamental physics, cosmology, and the philosophy of mind are the result of our taking a biased perspective on the world, and of our seeking a particular type of explanation. These problems could be solved if we were to adopt a different viewpoint and accept an alternative form of explanation. This is the contention of Silberstein, Stuckey, and McDevitt (SSM) in Beyond the Dynamical Universe.
And of course, we appreciate her endorsement in the last sentence:
Beyond the Dynamical Universe has the ambitious goal of introducing a complete world-view and demonstrating how it could potentially solve many of the biggest problems across a range of disciplines, while remaining accessible even to advanced undergraduates. It does an impressive job of achieving this. Yet, what makes the work exceptionally valuable is its openness—it offers a stimulating perspective on the world and encourages the reader to be involved in exploring it.
We should acknowledge that Karen did actually supply the name of the book as an initial reviewer. The tentative title was End of the Mechanical Universe, but she rightfully pointed out that people would assume this was just another popular book about Newtonian mechanics being superseded by modern physics. She then suggested the title we have now.
This statement and her slogan sums up our idea nicely:
From this NSU perspective, even if we discover some fundamental laws, or a ‘theory of everything’, not only would we be left asking, ‘why these laws rather than some other ones?’, but we would also be beleaguered by the initial conditions of the universe at the Big Bang, defying dynamical explanation in terms of any ‘prior state’. Instead, from the LSU perspective, ‘there is nothing particularly mysterious or sacred about the initial conditions at the Big Bang […] because the conditions at any point in spacetime globally constrain the conditions at the other points of spacetime’ (p. 102). The character of the explanation thus shifts and can be captured by the slogan ‘everything is the way it is because everything is the way it is’, in accordance with the adynamical global constraint (note: slogan coined by me, not SSM).
In this paper, we discuss the implications for the determinateness and intersubjective consistency of conscious experience in two gedanken experiments from quantum mechanics (QM). In particular, we discuss Wigner's friend and the delayed choice quantum eraser experiment with a twist. These are both cases (experiments) where quantum phenomena, or at least allegedly possible quantum phenomena/experiments, and the content/efficacy of conscious experience seem to bear on one another. We discuss why these two cases raise concerns for the determinateness and intersubjective consistency of conscious experience. We outline a 4D-global constraint-based approach to explanation in general and for QM in particular that resolves any such concerns without having to invoke metaphysical quietism (as with pragmatic accounts of QM), objective collapse mechanisms or subjective collapse. In short, we provide an account of QM free from any concerns associated with either the standard formalism or relative-state formalism, an account that yields a single 4D block universe with determinate and intersubjectively consistent conscious experience for all conscious agents. Essentially, the mystery in both experiments is caused by a dynamical/causal view of QM, e.g., time-evolved states in Hilbert space, and as we show this mystery can be avoided by a spatiotemporal, constraint-based view of QM, e.g., path integral calculation of probability amplitudes using future boundary conditions. What will become clear is that rather than furiously seeking some way to make dubious deep connections between quantum physics and conscious experience, the kinds of 4D adynamical global constraints that are fundamental to both classical and quantum physics and the relationship between them, also constrain conscious experience. That is, physics properly understood, already is psychology.
Bradford Skow reviewed our book for the Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews and therein provided an example of what happens when the reader is unwilling or unable to suspend their dynamical bias while reading the book. We warn the reader in Chapter 1:
This [dynamical bias] is a very hard bias to overcome; ironically even the many philosophers and physicists who claim to believe in the block universe ontology still adopt the ant’s-eye view and assume that fundamental explanation is [dynamical]. Therefore, we must ask that you make every effort to suspend this dynamical bias as you read the book.
But, he writes:
It really is necessary to register how wild this idea is. I myself, at least, think that the first claim [dynamical explanation] is true but that the second [adynamical explanation] is certainly false.
This leads him to dismiss out-of-hand our 4D-constraint-based explanation:
Of course, if you explain the initial state of the universe by citing a later state, you probably shouldn’t explain that later state by citing the initial state; it can't be both that A because B and B because A. If physicists follow SSM's advice, can they then explain every state of the universe? That is, for each region of spacetime, can they explain why that region of spacetime is in the state it is in, without ever asserting both "A because B" and "B because A"? If this cannot be done then there is at least one region of spacetime with the property that that region's being in such-and-such a state remains unexplained.
If you understand and are willing to consider the thesis presented in the book, then you can see immediately by the reviewer’s statement that his questions miss the point entirely. Einstein’s equations can be viewed as a self-consistency constraint as explained in Chapter 3. First, we explain what the metric is and how the left-hand side of Einstein’s equations (the Einstein tensor) is a very complex function of the spacetime metric. Then on p. 105:
The SET [right-hand side of Einstein’s equations] describes the matter–energy-momentum distribution in spacetime, so in order to provide the elements of the SET you have to know spatial and temporal distances for momentum, force, and energy. Of course, knowing spatial and temporal distances means you already know the metric. Therefore, you should view Einstein’s equations as providing a self-consistency criterion or a “global constraint” between what you mean by spatial and temporal measurements and what you mean by momentum, force, and energy. Any combination of the metric and SET that solves Einstein’s equations on the spacetime manifold M constitutes a solution of GR.
With this understanding it is obvious that indeed the GR solution at any point on M depends self-consistently on the solution at all other points on M, just like a crossword puzzle. So, yes, “A because B” and “B because A” per the adynamical global constraint (AGC, Einstein’s equations in this case) is exactly what adynamical explanation means. We answer his questions on p. 110:
Ultimately, a solution—a self-consistent metric and SET on the entirety of M—depends on two things: the adynamical global constraint (Einstein’s equations) and information in accord with observations for any location on M. In this block universe perspective, one could still ask regarding spacetime, “why do we observe what we observe rather than something else?” This question replaces its counterpart in the mechanical universe, “why these initial conditions rather than some other?” In [adynamical explanation], conditions at any location on M are said to be consistent with conditions elsewhere on M. It is this spatiotemporal contextual consistency per the adynamical global constraint that ultimately explains the conditions at any particular point on M in relation to all other points on M. There is no explanatory priority of one location over another in [adynamical explanation]. Accordingly, the only mystery would be the existence of M as a whole which is beyond empirical investigation and therefore beyond the purview of physics in this way of thinking. Thus, most would say that the principle of sufficient reason (PSR) cannot be satisfied on cosmological scales by empirical science in our “spatiotemporal ontological contextuality.”
And again on pp. 114-115:
Again, one could ask, “why is there an M at all?” And, certainly one could engage in speculation concerning M with metric-SET configurations and/or adynamical global constraints that do not represent our experience. Such counterfactual speculation wouldn’t lend itself to empiricism, by definition, but we wouldn’t condemn it as an “unworthy academic exercise” either. The point is that while we speak of doing physics from a God’s-eye view, given our contextuality and relationalism, there is no literal “view from nowhere” [Nagel, 1986] from which to ask “why does the entire relational block universe exist?” Such questions presuppose the dynamical perspective and the only answer one can give to such questions in our view will be in terms of counterfactual adynamical global constraints and alternative metric-SET configurations, that is, answers residing outside the purview of empirical science.
Again, these mysteries arise because the time-evolved bias of our ant’s-eye view demands dynamical explanation and a dynamical story about the universe traced backward in time leads ultimately to conditions in the very early universe. Again, per Wilczek, “The account it gives—things are what they are because they were what they were—raises the question, Why were things that way and not any other?” [Wilczek, 2016, p. 37]. The key to avoiding this explanatory problem is to relegate dynamical explanation based on time-evolved stories to secondary (non-fundamental) status and accept that the more general block universe explanation based on a spatiotemporally global constraint is truly fundamental. This is adynamical explanation per the Lagrangian Schema Universe. In this more general adynamical explanation, Einstein’s equations are understood as a global constraint, that is, a self-consistency criterion for the metric and SET on the spacetime manifold M. While time-evolved stories can certainly be told in GR solutions, there well may be events in a GR solution that resist such dynamical explanation, for example, the origin of the universe or the question “why were things that way and not any other?” In those cases, we just have to accept that reality is best understood adynamically in spatiotemporally holistic fashion.
So, you cannot be "Skowed" if you want to appreciate the explanatory power of the "all-at-once" view and rise to Wilczek's challenge. You must set aside your dynamical bias as you read the book!
In this Physics Forums Insight, I show how the Popescu-Rohrlich (PR) correlations provide an unreasonable advantage in a particular “quantum guessing game” using a pedagogical counterpart from the book “Totally Random: Why Nobody Understands Quantum Mechanics” by Tanya Bub and Jeffrey Bub (Princeton University Press, 2018).
I show that the PR correlations are not just a little bit better than quantum correlations for the quantum guessing game, they are unreasonably effective. In fact, they violate the conservation of binary information, which translates into conservation of angular momentum on average when the information regards spin as I showed in Why the Quantum. So, it is probably the case that a physical instantiation of the PR correlations is a pipe dream akin to a perpetual motion machine.
In this Physics Forums Insight I introduce the quantum mystery called “Wigner’s friend.” As in my previous Insights, I show how this mystery results from dynamical/causal explanation per the “ant’s-eye view” and is resolved by spatiotemporal-constraint-based explanation in the block universe view (Wilzcek’s “God’s-eye view”).