A new paper was published this month. A overview is here:

On the reality of the quantum state

The preprint on Arxiv is here:

Arxiv preprint:On the reality of the quantum state

note: they are not saying the wave function itself is physically real/tangible (something of physical substance). rather:

"The argument depends on few assumptions. One is that a
system has a real physical state --  not necessarily completely
described by quantum theory, but objective and
independent of the observer."

The wave function is still thought of as an object in a phase space.

anyway, I wanted to make people aware of this paper.

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Replies to This Discussion

Interesting subject, John, to some people at least. Thanks for calling our attention to it. I'll keep an eye out for any articles by metaphysically oriented quantum physicists addressing the issue raised here.

Hi Michael!

I think this is one case where words fail... tough to describe this. I rather gave up and just posted the results.

I did find:

(note to all readers: psi-ontic and psi-epistemic are greek letter psi and a shorthand for the QM wave funtion = Psi; NOT related to "Psychic".

also - please look up the words ontic and epistemic before tackling this mess. it will help)

Can the quantum state be interpreted statistically?


Quantum times v.6 num 3


Quantum times v.6 num. 4

this may help. may make things worse....  they have a higher word/math ratio. :)

This may help. not sure.

Thanks, John, but these articles are too mathematically technical for me and most other laypersons.

What I had in mind was something putting this new paper on wavefunctions by the trio called PBR, for short, in a philosophical and cultural context accessible to knowledgeable laypersons.

After looking over the original magazine article and scanning what you provided, it seems to me to be the continually age old debate between "Material Realism"(the critics) vs "Philosophical Idealism"(the PBR paper) which may lean toward that.

Or, since the words "mind" or "consciousness" isn't mentioned by either side, it could be a debate between different factions within the Material Realist community.

What do you make of it?

  Hi, friends!

  Dear Anand is the one to blame, he goaded me into this thread. John, I'd be grateful if you presented your interpretation of this new scientific idea, and why do you think it is important. I subscribe to Michael's questions. ;-)

 Have fun today, people!!! :-)



hi -

I have no firm opinion of this yet. I am still thinking about it.

It is a no-go theorem and strengthens (adds to the literature) the completeness argument of QM. However, since it is a theorem, people may disagree with the assumptions. (I am somewhat in that camp until I change my mind).

The theorem's result is actually more of QM is the complete reality in science (an ontology statement) as opposed to an epistemology of nature.

I brought it up because it is important in terms of QM interpretations, and is in the mass media now.

I also expect some Gaga PhD to proclaim that it proves Consciousness is a physical entity in QM. If anything, I think PBR says the reverse is true (or more likely).

It also raises measurement issues (again).

I actually wanted other opinions. What do you guys think? There are some philosophy papers about PBR showing up out there.


 Well, l think that ontology and epistemology are different subjects if you are a philosopher or a scientist.

 As I understand it, they have proved that assuming QM as real in the universe works well, but some others are working to prove that assuming QM is real only within scientists' minds works as well, so it is still an open question.

 But I don't think I understand the whole story and I don't understand why it may be important.

 Keep on havin' fun, friends!!!  

As I somewhat suspected, an argument among materialist physicists. Let them "slug it out."

If this PBR paper "proves" consciousness is involved in the wave state mathematically or not, I can't say. But, we don't need, I don't think, Ph.Ds, or other people, proving consciousness exists to us. By the very nature of being aware that we're aware and that we exist is a direct knowing of the truth of it.

Of course, I know there are many hardcore, diehard materialists who will deny their very existence if it means keeping consciousness out of quantum physics. Why? That's for another discussion.

I know, though, John, that as a working physicist you have to meet certain protocols within your profession to keep working. Different for us operating in other life areas.

hi -

If you take a look at Leifer's blog Can the quantum state be interpreted statistically?  he breaks out Quantum States and interpretations for this paper as follows:  (I edited it some; errors are my own)

1.Wavefunctions are epistemic and there is some underlying ontic state. Quantum mechanics is the statistical theory of these ontic states in analogy with Liouville mechanics.

2.Wavefunctions are epistemic, but there is no deeper underlying reality.

3.Wavefunctions are ontic (there may also be additional ontic degrees of freedom, which is an important distinction but not relevant to the present discussion).

I will call options 1 and 2 psi-epistemic and option 3 psi-ontic.
The theorem in the paper attempts to rule out option 1, which would mean that scientific realists should become psi-ontologists.
I am pretty sure that no theorem on Earth could rule out option 2, so that is always a refuge for psi-epistemicists, at least if their psi-epistemic conviction is stronger than their realist one.
Pretty much all of the well-developed interpretations that take a realist stance fall under option 3, so they are in the psi-ontic camp. This includes the Everett/many-worlds interpretation [jem: Multiverses], de Broglie-Bohm theory [jem: pilot-wave], and spontaneous collapse models. Advocates of these approaches are likely to rejoice at the PBR result, as it apparently rules out their only realist competition, and they are unlikely to regard anti-realist approaches as viable.

Relational models (I would call these Jungian in this forum) likely fall into option 2.  Option 2 would also include the Copenhagen Interpretation.

So with PBR we are back to the materialist models, option 3  (psi-ontologists):

Everett/many-worlds interpretation/Multiverses,

de Broglie-Bohm/pilot-wave interpretations,

and spontaneous collapse models.


Option 2 (epistemologists).

The above might clarify things some.

Thanks,  John,  for your thoughts on the PBR paper and framing it in the lingo that physicists would use professionally.

I'm aware that materialists are for the time being in the majority of mainstream physics. Never-the-less, if I run across an article by a non-materialist physicist pertaining to the paper in question, I'll be sure to share it here.

well, once it is in words, it can be searched online to get verbal descriptions. A good place is:

Plato Stanford University

The most popular interpretation (still) is the Copenhagen Interpretation. That is not a materialist interpretation, so finding a non-materialist scientist (for QM) should be pretty easy.

Probably, to avoid the materialist/realist/ontologist people it is best to eliminate people that like the following theories:

Note: Hidden Variables are eliminated (not many of these guys, i.e. hidden variable believers, exist).

1) Multiverse/Everett-many-worlds interpretation

2) de Broglie-Bohm/pilot-wave interpretations,

3) spontaneous collapse models.

That may help also.

(I tend, currently, to gravitate towards a Relational QM interpretation)

much of what is going on is experimental philosophy/metaphysics. What is "real" is what the question is all about.

you make a good observation. I might add that what is found is not in their control. It is what it is.


 Sorry, I still don't understand it, so I must ask about "experimental philosophy/metaphysics" as these latter are one of my concerns. Of course it's always about what's "real", but I think metaphysical and physical are different approaches, and reading this last post of yours, John, has made me think: "now, I even understand it the less", so please have mercy and tell me what's this all about. ;-)


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