DOI: 10.14704/nq.2015.13.4.872

Measurement Problem: A Prediction Problem in Quantum Mechanics and Classical Physics

Franz Klaus Jansen


Quantum mechanics is based on Schrödinger’s wave function with linear superposition of vectors in a Hilbert space. Due to superposition, multiple physical states are considered simultaneously for the same time point, but when the corresponding quantum mechanical experiments are realized, there is only one outcome and not a superposition of pointer positions. This observation characterizes the quantum mechanical measurement problem, which for about a century found multiple interpretations, which can be classified as potentiality, as proposed by Heisenberg, or as real physical entities, for instance fields. Potentialities are yet inexistent in reality and unobservable in the present, since they represent a possible future. Thus, they can only be an intra-mental representation of a future process and not a physical extra-mental process ongoing in the present. There is coexistence of a physical object observable in reality and a mental prediction by an observer concerning the future behavior of this object. The characterization of quantum mechanical formalism by some physicists corresponds to a prediction and therefore to a mental representation of the future behavior of elementary particles and not to a description of an ongoing extra-mental process. Prediction in life and science has some characteristics, which resemble the measurement problem, since it undergoes a “multiple to one” reduction of mental potentialities to only one observable real outcome. Besides quantum mechanics, such reductions can also be found with many kinds of predictions, in classical physics for regular and irregular dynamical processes and in humans for programming future actions. Superposition in classical physics only concerns variable effects, but in quantum mechanics includes variable effects and non-localizable causes. Quantum mechanics, interpreted as prediction of future outcomes with multiple potentialities but only one realization, would resemble the general prediction problem in life and science and thereby loos its weird aspects.


Quantum mechanics; classical physics; measurement problem; prediction problem; mental potentiality; physical reality

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The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

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