A new interpretation of quantum mechanics suggests that reality does not depend on the person measuring it

For 100 years scientists have disagreed on how to interpret quantum mechanics. A recent study by Jussi Lindgren and Jukka Liukkonen supports an interpretation that is close to classical scientific principles.
Jukka Liukkonen vasemmalla ja Jussi Lindgren oikealla. Kuva: Aalto-yliopisto.
Photo: Jukka Liukkonen (left) and Jussi Lindgren (right) describe Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. Photo: Aalto University.

Quantum mechanics arose in the 1920s – and since then scientists have disagreed on how best to interpret it. Many interpretations, including the Copenhagen interpretation presented by Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg and in particular von Neumann-Wigner interpretation, state that the consciousness of the person conducting the test affects its result. On the other hand, Karl Popper and Albert Einstein thought that an objective reality exists. Erwin Schrödinger put forward the famous thought experiment involving the fate of an unfortunate cat that aimed to describe the imperfections of quantum mechanics.

In their most recent article, Finnish civil servants Jussi Lindgren and Jukka Liukkonen, who study quantum mechanics in their free time, take a look at the uncertainty principle that was developed by Heisenberg in 1927. According to the traditional interpretation of the principle, location and momentum cannot be determined simultaneously to an arbitrary degree of precision, as the person conducting the measurement always affects the values.

However, in their study Lindgren and Liukkonen concluded that the correlation between a location and momentum, i.e. their relationship, is fixed. In other words, reality is an object that does not depend on the person measuring it. Lindgren and Liukkonen utilized stochastic dynamic optimization in their study.  In their theory’s frame of reference, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle is a manifestation of thermodynamic equilibrium, in which correlations of random variables do not vanish.

“The results suggest that there is no logical reason for the results to be dependent on the person conducting the measurement. According to our study, there is nothing that suggests that the consciousness of the person would disturb the results or create a certain result or reality”, says Jussi Lindgren.

But is an explanation really an explanation, if it’s a vague one?

Jussi Lindgren

This interpretation supports such interpretations of quantum mechanics that support classical scientific principles.

“The interpretation is objective and realistic, and at the same time as simple as possible. We like clarity and prefer to remove all mysticism,” says Liukkonen.

The researchers published their last article in December 2019, which also utilized mathematical analysis as a tool to explain quantum mechanics. The method they used was stochastic optimal control theory, which has been used to solve such challenges as how to send a rocket from the Earth to the Moon.

Following Occam’s razor, the law of parsimony named after William of Ockham, the researchers have now chosen the simplest explanation from those that fit.

“We study quantum mechanics as a statistical theory. The mathematical tool is clear, but some might think it is a boring one. But is an explanation really an explanation, if it’s a vague one?” asks Lindgren.

Physics is a great hobby for a civil servant

In addition to the study of quantum mechanics, Lindgren and Liukkonen have many other things in common: they were both members of the same maths club at Kuopio Lyceum High School, they both have done post-graduate research, and both have careers ascivil servants. Liukkonen has already finished his PhD dissertation on endoscopic ultrasound on joints and now works as an inspector at Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority.

Physics is a great hobby for a civil servant. Together we have agonised over how the interpretations of quantum mechanics make no sense.

Jukka Liukkonen

Lindgren’s dissertation currently consists of various mathematical articles trying to explain quantum mechanics. He works full-time as a ministerial adviser at Prime Minister's Office where he has been negotiating such issues as the EU’s recovery plan. A decade ago, he also participated in negotiations on Greece’s loan guarantees, as a junior official.

Lindgren and Liukkonen’s idea of a paradise is a festival conference which would combine short films with lectures on quantum physics.

“Physicists and artists could find new ways to work together - after all, both areas are manifestations of creativity,” says Lindgren.

Further information:

Article: The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle as an Endogenous Equilibrium Property of Stochastic Optimal Control Systems in Quantum Mechanics

Jussi Lindgren
[email protected]

Jukka Liukkonen
[email protected]

The study took Jussi Lindgren, left, and Jukka Liukkonen, right, back to year 1941 when Stueckelberg’s wave equation was invented. The equation is the foundation for parameterized relativistic dynamics.

Rewriting quantum mechanics in their spare time

A pair of civil servants solve a quantum mechanics problem that had bothered them since they were students

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