Scientists have discovered that facts and reality may be subjective to the individual observing them. This is because in quantum mechanics – which examines particles on the sub-atomic level – particles can exist in a point of ‘superposition’. Perhaps the most famous example of superposition is Erwin Schrodinger’s thought experiment, Schrodinger’s Cat.
To demonstrate his theory, Schrodinger said a cat placed in a box whose fate depended on the outcome of a random event could be both alive and dead simultaneously, its state only being known when the box is opened.
In quantum physics, these facts are established as a contradiction and a person inside the box would observe a definite answer, while a person on the outside observes a superimposed state.
Massimiliano Proietti, lead author of a new study and PhD student at Heriot-Watt University’s Mostly Quantum Lab, said: “This brings about a paradoxical situation where the fact established inside the laboratory seemingly contradicts the fact observed on the outside.”
To test the theory, the team created a quantum test which included four “observers” in a quantum computer.
Six entangled light particles – which means they are in a state of superposition – were introduced to the observers.
The team were able to show that inside and outside observers could not agree as to what happened to the entangled particles.
Lab leader Professor Alessandro Fedrizzi, adds: “The insight we gained is that quantum observers may indeed be entitled to their own facts. If we insist that this shouldn’t be the case for ‘classical’ human observers, the challenge now is to pin down where the two domains depart from each other.
“It may for example hint at quantum mechanics not being applicable to big, everyday objects—something that is allowed by textbook quantum physics.”
The two researchers wrote in an article for The Conversation: “This experiment therefore shows that, at least for local models of quantum mechanics, we need to rethink our notion of objectivity.
“The facts we experience in our macroscopic world appear to remain safe, but a major question arises over how existing interpretations of quantum mechanics can accommodate subjective facts.”
However, if you still do not fully understand, no need to fret – quantum mechanics is notoriously difficult to understand, and even the best brains in the world still cannot fully grasp it.
The late Richard Feynman, who is considered one of the godfathers of quantum physics, once said: “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics”.