Quantum Mechanics is the basis of reality and Quantum Mechanics says that nothing is really real!
Things only exist when they are being observed and indeed nothing can be known about them while they are not being observed. From observations we can only say how something behaved in the past and nothing at all about what will happen until the next observation. The original interpretation of the theories led to some strange paradoxes. "Schrodinger’s Cat" is the most famous example:
A cat is placed in a box with a radioactive source which has a 50% chance of emitting a particle in a pre-allotted time. A detector will smash a vial of cyanide and kill the cat if such a particle is detected. According to the rules, while the cat is unobserved it is in a state of ‘superposition’ where it is neither dead nor alive. It is only when the box is opened and the ‘waveform collapses’ that we find the cat alive or dead.
The many strange features of the theory can be resolved by the ‘Many Worlds’ scenario. It goes like this: When ever a choice is made (live or dead cat) the Universe splits into two copies of itself, one with each outcome. So when ‘you’ open the box in this Universe to find a living cat there is another ‘you’ in another Universe opening the box to find a dead cat.
Although the ‘Many Worlds’ theory resolves some of the paradoxes of the original interpretation, I am still unsatisfied that this gives a true picture of reality.
This is all very well, but what of the origin of the universe?
According to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, something can be created out of nothing as long as it obeys the rule:-
where ‘DE’ is the amount of energy in the system, ‘DT’ is the time that it lasts and ‘h’ is Planck's constant. ‘h’ is very, very tiny but there is a growing belief that the total energy of the Universe is very close to zero. Therefore the entire Universe could just be a Quantum Fluctuation.
There is also another possibility that is even stranger. Photons act as both particles and waves but both properties can never be measured at the same time. Also, when an observation is made of the particle properties it forces the photon to have acted as a particle in the past. The argument is the same for wave properties. Thus an observation made now can affect how something behaved in the past.
So, as observations of more and more distant galaxies are made, the nature of the observations could be affecting the galaxies themselves. Indeed, measurement of the cosmic background radiation, the echo of the Big Bang, might be ‘creating’ the Big Bang and the Universe.
Of course the ‘Many Worlds’ theory would say that the observations we make are simply choosing which one of the infinite number of possible Universes we inhabit.Ammonite, 8th June 1998