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Carlo Rovelli: “I was hoping that vaccines would increase people’s confidence in science” – by the way

It may be strange to have a cover revolving abyssfrom an Italian physicist Carlo Rovelli, View sentence courtesy of British writer Neil Gaiman. Perhaps what unites the works of the scientist and author of fiction is, in short, the attitude that calls into question our certainty about reality. Rovelli has already published other scholarly works in Brazil that question our notions of time, space, and existence, such as Seven short physics lessons, reality is not what it seems NS time order. In his new book, released by Objetiva, he delves into one of the most fascinating and misunderstood topics in modern science, quantum physics.

The lay public has ended up not knowing, for the past few decades, a blanket of mysticism, pseudoscience, and sorcery. There are therapists who claim to take advantage of “quantum effects” to treat other people’s problems, but it is rare that they know what quantum physics is and what its effects actually are. In times of obscurantism, scientific denial, and ignorance, books like Rovelli come at an opportune time.

Quantum physics studies puzzling little phenomena, such as the behavior of electrons orbiting the nucleus of an atom. The motion of everyday objects such as a train has been satisfactorily described by classical mechanics that we inherited from Newton, but at the beginning of the 20th century physicists realized that their formulas did not apply to extreme scales such as fundamental particles. At this stage revolving abyss lies. More specifically on the German island of Helgoland, in the North Sea, mentioned by James Joyce in Ulysses His name means “holy island”. There Werner Heisenberg turned to start what we now call quantum physics.

Since science has been able to unravel this subatomic environment, some notions about reality that seemed so obvious have been called into question. For example, the electron did not move along a path, like a very small ball, but manifested itself in certain orbits of the atom and appeared to “jump” from one to the other without actually moving between points, obeying the rules of probabilistic, indeterminate paths. The challenge for quantum physics, in the past 100 years, has been to understand these phenomena. While the theory is incredibly accurate, and capable of making verifiable predictions more accurately than any other theory, Rovelli warns that it forces us to set aside some of our intuitive notions about the world we live in.

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Even the word “how much” comes from a peculiar characteristic of reality. German physicist Max Planck noted that energy (as, for example, the heat of a furnace) does not increase assuming all possible values ​​between them. Rovelli states that it behaves “as if the energy were only transferred in bundles,” assuming values ​​multiples of the lower bound. There are no very tiny amounts of energy. Reality has a certain degree of accuracy, that is, energy takes on definite, definite, quantitative values ​​that do not constantly evolve. Hence “quantum”, not some mystical characteristic that involves the power of the mind.

first part of revolving abyss He recounts the development of the study of these small phenomena, reviewing a star-studded crew of Nobel Prize winners such as Dane Niels Bohr, German Werner Heisenberg, and Austrian Erwin Schrödinger, among many others. The second part introduces the most disturbing concepts in quantum physics, such as superposition and entanglement, which have led to it being considered this mystic. In the third and final part, Rovelli offers some interpretations that are still under discussion and explains the basis for his hypothesis, formulated in the 1990s, relational quantum physics.

It attempts to remove some apparent contradictions in quantum theory through an interpretive approach that takes into account the relationship between the observer and the system it describes. For him, the properties of the object are relatively expressive. For example, it makes no sense to measure the speed of an aircraft without specifying what (on the ground, in the air in motion?) Likewise, quantum effects such as superposition and particle entanglement will depend on this relationship with a reference point (or observer) to be measured.

In the second century, the Indian sage Nagarjuna developed a philosophy of emptiness whose central thesis is, very briefly, that nothing exists in itself independently of other things, but that everything that exists does so in relation to something. Rovelli offers this and many other scientific references, from cubism to Shakespeare’s Storm, to explain how he sees the dilemmas posed by quantum physics, such as the idea that an observer changes the results of an experiment, or that a hypothetical cat can take on two simultaneous states and be alive and dead at the same time .

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“Quantum theory explained the foundations of chemistry, the workings of atoms, solid matter, plasma, the color of the sky, the neurons in our brain, the dynamics of stars, the origin of galaxies… many aspects of the world. The basis of the latest technology: from computers to nuclear power plants, it is part From the daily lives of engineers, astrophysicists, cosmologists, chemists, and biologists. Theoretical principles are in high school curricula. They are the beating heart of today’s science. It remains an enigma. A bit disturbing,” writes Rovelo, who elegantly leads the reader through the intricacies of the most intricate theory I have envisioned mankind at all, which still haunts us with its incomprehensible secrets.

Read below the interview by Carlo Rovelli condition By email:

The beginning of the twentieth century gave us Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, Schudinger, who revolutionized our understanding of reality. Today, there appear not to be individual names as notable groups, but rather anonymous groups of researchers in universities and laboratories. as mr. look at this?

The difference is just a matter of perspective. In the early twentieth century, Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg and Schrödinger were still not recognized. They looked like “anonymous researchers in universities and laboratories”. It is possible today that some of these “anonymous researchers” will be celebrated in the future.

What is the state of the art theoretical physics and what are the latest discoveries as influential as those you recorded in your book, created a century ago?

There are tentative ideas and theories, such as quantum theory and general relativity that were tentative in the beginning. We still don’t know which one will prove correct. For my part, I hope the in-loop quantum gravity is correct. It has not yet been confirmed, but there is a mob to find evidence to support it. Loop Quantum Gravitation predicts that space is granular. You expect the geometry of spacetime to be in quantum interference. This changes our view of the world profoundly.

His book Relational Quantum Physics offers explanations for such exuberant phenomena as particle entanglement, Schrödinger’s cat, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, the idea of ​​an observer’s interference in experiment, and surprisingly simple and elegant explanations when Mr. He describes it in the book. It seems to eliminate most quantum paradoxes and ambiguities.

fact. But that doesn’t make quantum theory any less exotic. The conceptual change it requires is still significant.

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How successful is relational quantum physics today and what are the biggest criticisms of it?

Scientists and philosophers remain divided over how to think about quantum phenomena. Relational quantum physics arose in the 1990s, and for a long time remained a minority view. In the past decade, and especially in recent years, it has received more attention. Many people find it attractive. But I certainly wouldn’t say it’s the dominant view. There is still no prevailing view.

How close are we to unifying quantum theories and relativity?

It’s an excellent question, but no one knows the answer. We may have already done so: toroidal quantum gravity could be this unification. But it may also be wrong. We have to wait, meditate, experiment, and find out.

the master. Do you think we will reach a point in our scientific knowledge where there are no more new questions to solve or where our ability to discover new things is stagnant?

No, I think the number of open questions is still huge. There’s a lot we don’t know about reality… It seems humanity is more likely to destroy itself than to reach the limits of its knowledge.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the importance of scientific dissemination and communication to explain science to the general public. But we still have a lot of work to do in this area. as mr. Do you think it is possible to improve the dissemination of science to the public?

I had hoped that the extraordinary efficacy we see with vaccines would increase people’s confidence in scientific thinking. Unfortunately, this does not happen: many naive people are deceived by the nonsense that floods the Internet. But I don’t think this has anything to do with science. It’s about politics, people’s unhappiness, mistrust of society, and feelings that this society doesn’t represent us. Science ends up getting caught in this crossfire.

There is a growing gap between the exact sciences and the humanities, but his book provides a thought-provoking example of Ernst Mach, who linked physics with philosophy, politics, and literature. How can we bring these worlds together today?

to be smarter We see that there are no real contradictions if we listen more carefully to each other.