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Mind-blowing Experiments Say That Reality Doesn’t Exist If You Are Not Looking at It

If you aren’t seeing something with your own eyes, does it really exist? Or is reality really just an illusion – a highly individualistic one, at that? In 2015, scientists at the Australian National University demonstrated that reality may just be an illusion. Their study seemed to show that our reality only exists when we are looking at it. Later in 2019, another group of physicists then also recreated a similar experiment that, too, showed that perhaps our reality truly is in the, well, eye of the beholder. If this all seems a little over your head, you’re not alone.

Reality Really Is Just An Illusion

In 2015, researchers from the Australian National University recreated an old experiment called John Wheeler’s Delayed Choice experiment. What they demonstrated is that reality truly doesn’t exist until it is measured. That is, on the atomic scale, at least. (1)

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It proves that measurement is everything. At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it,” lead researcher Dr. Andrew Truscott said in a press release. (2)

The Original Experiment

In 1961, Nobel Prize-winner Eugene Wigner highlighted a paradox of quantum mechanics using a thought experiment. His thought experiment was about how he and his friend both perceived what we think is the same reality, differently. This revealed that what you see or perceive as reality is actually unique to you. We all see things a bit differently. This spurred the thought process of whether objective facts actually exist or not. (3)

The John Wheeler Delayed Choice experiment was done by, you guessed it, John Wheeler in 1978. The experiment involved bouncing light beams using mirrors. He didn’t get any conclusive results, however. The level of technology back then proposed a challenge and made it difficult to implement. Scientists today, however, were able to recreate his experiment using helium atoms scattered by laser light.

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The Modern Experiments

Researcher Massimiliano Proietti of Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, along with a handful of researchers decided to take another look at Wigner’s experiment in 2020. Rather than just a thought experiment, however, they decided to recreate it in a lab. Modern-day technology allowed them to do so.

In the lab, they created distinct realities and compared and contrasted them. They discovered that these were irreconcilable. Proietti said that this means two realities can be at odds with each other and that this “calls into question the objective status of the facts established by the two observers,”.

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“In a state-of-the-art 6-photon experiment, we realize this extended Wigner’s friend scenario,” he said of the experiment.

This has since forced physicists to confront the very nature of reality. It’s basically saying that reality truly doesn’t exist.

Read: Man’s Theory About The Afterlife Is Freaking People Out

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The John Wheeler Delayed Choice Experiment

Dr. Truscott and his team forced one hundred helium atoms into a state of matter known as Bose-Einstein condensate. They forced out all of the atoms except for one. Next, they used a pair of laser beams to create a grating pattern. This pattern would scatter any atom passing through it in the same way that a solid grating scatters light. This means the atom would either act as a particle and pass through one of the pattern’s arms, or it would act as a wave and pass through both.

The scientists added the second grating after the atom had already passed through the first one. This suggests that the atom had not yet “decided” if it was a particle or if it was a wave before they added the second grating.

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“Quantum physics predictions about interference seem odd enough when applied to light, which seems more like a wave, but to have done the experiment with atoms, which are complicated things that have mass and interact with electric fields and so on, adds to the weirdness,” said PhD student Roman Khakimov.

Dr. Truscott says this means that the atom either “decided” how to behave based on the measurement or a future measurement affected the photon’s past. This adds validity to the quantum theory and the idea that reality doesn’t exist if there is no one there to see it.

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The atoms did not travel from A to B. It was only when they were measured at the end of the journey that their wave-like or particle-like behavior was brought into existence,” Dr. Truscott said.

Read: A golden chamber buried under a mountain in Japan contains water so pure it can dissolve metal

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What Does This Mean?

The researcher’s study does show that in the micro-world ruled by quantum mechanics, two different observers will see two different realities. They are both correct in what they see – neither one is the “right” reality whereas the other is false. So essentially, facts can be, well, subjective. This means that you and your friend can both be right about what you are seeing. Or, you can both be wrong. Whichever one suits you best. (4)

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So does this mean that our “reality” doesn’t really exist? Or at least, it only exists when we are there to see it? Also, does this truly mean that our personal reality is unique to every single other person on the planet? To be honest: I still don’t know. The scientists don’t, either. However, this is certainly an astonishing group of experiments and another step closer to understanding aspects of quantum physics. If you’re curious to learn a little more, check out the video below.

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Keep Reading: “Humankind is greedy, stupid and the greatest threat to Earth,” – Stephen Hawking

Sources

  1. Wheeler’s delayed-choice gedanken experiment with a single atom.” Nature. A. G. Manning. May 25, 2015
  2. Experiment confirms quantum theory weirdness.” Science Daily. May 27, 2015.
  3. “New Physics Experiment Indicates There’s No Objective Reality” Interesting Engineering. August, 30, 2021.
  4. “Experimental test of local observer independence” Sciece Advances. September 20, 2019.
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