Reply To: Samkhya and quantum physics

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Ashish Dalela

When you look at a picture, you see something foreground and something background. There are pictures in which you have the choice of changing the foreground and background, and then seeing something different. In the famous face-vase illusion, the vase at the center is white and the faces on the sides are dark. The picture is flat; however, you have a choice to decide whether the dark part is the foreground (and the light part is the background) or vice versa. Whatever you consider foreground becomes the focus of your observation, and the rest is relegated to obscurity. The background doesn’t disappear from the vision; it is accorded less importance.

In the classical picture of the world, there is a fixed distance to everything from the vantage of the observer. There is no conception of a ‘focus’ by which something becomes foreground (and has a lesser distance) while something else becomes background (and has a greater distance). In human observation, however, this concept of distance–created by the observer–exists. In fact, this conception of distance is a choice of the observer, and distance becomes a choice.

From this conception of distance, you derive a meaning–e.g. that the picture is two faces or a vase. So, choice plays an important role in interpreting the nature of reality, and the mechanics of this interpretation reduces to the creation of different distances to different parts of reality. These distances to different things form your personal coordinate reference frame. Objectively speaking, the distance to all parts of the picture is the same (because the picture is flat, and its parts are equidistant from you), but in the personal coordinate system, they have different distances. We can form a mental picture of the world based on the objective distance–e.g. that the picture has some colors. But to create objects out of this, we use prioritization.

So, the contention that we understand coordinate frames at the macroscopic level is wrong. You are not talking about the macroscopic world, but the classical interpretation of the macroscopic world. And that interpretation (in which all distances are fixed) is incapable of explaining why you see foreground and background in a picture when everything has the same distance.

Current quantum physics uses the classical notion of coordinate frames; so there is no difference between the classical and quantum notions of coordinate frames. If we want to understand the ordering of events we must realize that we are trying to perceive meaning, and some part of the meaning is foreground and other parts are backgrounds. In a sentence, for example, we first try to guess the ‘subject’ of the sentence, followed by the ‘object’. Then within the subject and object, we make further distinctions and organize them into a hierarchy. This is ordering, and it involves distances to the various words, due to which the sentence has an inherent hierarchy which is depicted by drawing the sentence as a tree structure. But from a classical perspective, the sentence is a sequence (straight line) of words without any hierarchy. So, when we speak about coordinate reference frames, there is a classical sense in which things are flat. And there is a semantic, relational, and personal sense in which things are hierarchical. To understand this hierarchical distance, we have to understand how we perceive rather than measure.