Quantum Vacuum and the Cheshire Cat

by Glenn Smith

The book Who’s Afraid of Schrodinger’s Cat? by Ian Marshall and Danah Zohar is subtitled An A-to-Z Guide to All the New Science Ideas You Need to Keep Up with the New Thinking. The publisher says the book “offers clear, concise, fascinating explanations of today’s most advanced ideas: quantum mechanics, relativity, chaos and complexity theories” and other modern science ideas.

In the article Actuality and Potentiality in Quantum Mechanics, the book has the following:

If we can grasp the fact that potentiality is a second domain of existence, and thus that possibilities are to some extent real entities, we can begin to understand the nature of the quantum vacuum and its relationship to daily existence. The vacuum . . . is the underlying, lowest-energy state of all, the source of everything that is. The vacuum does not, however, “ex-ist” [sic] in the strict Latin meaning of the word, which has the connotation “to stand out.” We cannot see, touch, or measure the vacuum. It is a sea of pure potentiality, a kind of preexistence whose excitation gives rise to existence. Thus potentiality is the source of existence, while existence itself is a plethora of actualities or “manifestations.” This kind of thinking is familiar to mystics, particularly Eastern ones, but it is alien to mainstream Western thought and illustrates one of the crucial ways in which quantum physics heralds a new paradigm. (p.42)

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Now here I will not argue whether or not the quantum vacuum is some sort of preexistence that gives rise to all that we see today. Nor will I argue whether or not the quantum vacuum is actually an energy state, although I would like to know the causes of these excitations the authors speak about. If modern physicists want to stake their reputations on such concepts, I will not stand in their way nor question them. The authors are university physics professors who appear to be standing behind such ideas.

Other statements in this paragraph are more curious. They claim to know quite a bit about this quantum vacuum, hence the book. Yet they tell us they cannot see, touch, or measure it. This leaves one to wonder about the source of these scientists’ knowledge, if they are explaining to me something they cannot measure…

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