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The laws of physics have often been taken to be objective statements about reality, but are they? Suppose Bob is a smart computer programmer with access to a super-duper-supercomputer. In it, he simulates a world operating under different laws from that of his own. In that simulation emerges a super-duper-smart scientist Alice. Alice deduces the laws governing her simulation not realizing it is a simulation and calls them the laws of physics. What Bob calls the laws of physics is something else entirely. Without an ontological commitment to wild metaphysical speculations, Alice will have to conclude what she deduced to be the laws of physics, almost certainly have to be the laws of physics for her.

According to some ontological speculations, the shortest description which fits observational data is the actual ontological reality. Certainly a law like Schmidhuber's computer program which multitasks over all possible programs, one of which simulates our universe, will have a shorter description than a program which only describes the laws of physics of our universe? By this "kolmogorov" ontology, wouldn't Schmidhuber's program be more likely to be ontologically real as the laws of physics? If there is some measure over observers, it would also means the laws of physics (not the ultimate) will have to be typically generic while giving rise to sentient observers. What about a quantum computer running a quantum superposition of all possible programs, with eventual decoherence between the different programs? That would also have a shorter description.

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Isn't that a subjective question? For example, from the standpoint of subjective idealism, nothing exists but one's consciousness. You can't actually prove anything, so subjectivity of physical laws becomes irrelevant. –  Pygmalion Jun 6 '12 at 10:29
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Hi @Anixx: A philosophy tag is not allowed, cf. this meta Phys.SE post. And the community would probably feel the same way about tags such as e.g. 'metaphysics', 'ontology', 'epistemology', etc. Please do not introduce a lot of new philosophy-like tags that may invite non-constructive off-topic posts. –  Qmechanic Mar 19 '13 at 14:42
    
@Qmechanic lol these things are explicitly mentioned in the question. –  Anixx Mar 19 '13 at 14:45
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@Anixx: Doesn't mean that we need a tag on it. –  Manishearth Mar 19 '13 at 16:25
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" This question is philosophy" I rather agree, and that makes it off-topic to my mind. I'm not going to close it but I feel that any question which requires such a tag does not belong. –  dmckee Mar 19 '13 at 17:10
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closed as off topic by David Z Mar 20 '13 at 5:12

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2 Answers

Among interpretations of quantum mechanics there are those leaning towards ontology and those leaning towards epistemology.

Inclined to ontology are the following interpretations:

  • de Broglie–Bohm interpretation

  • von Neumann interpretation

  • Many-worlds interpretation

and others

In these interpretations there is a universal wave function that exists objectively albeit unobservable.

Inclined to epistemology are the following interpretations:

  • Copenhagen interpretation

  • Relational interpretation

and others.

In these interpretations wave function is subjective and reflects the observer's information about the system in question.

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You confuse subjectivity and accessibility.

The world view of an amoeba is much simpler that that of a physicists, and the world view of a thermostat is even simpler.

The argument shows that there may be phenomena that we have no way of detecting with the means available to us. examples might be the behavior of Nature at time scales far below the Planck scale, or the physics before the big bang.

But this doesn't make the laws of physics subjective. They are objective in the sense that everyone with access to the same controls (i.e., experimental equipment) will get the results predicted by the physical laws.

That most creatures in the universe (amoeba, thermostats, and people without a degree in science) have no access to the experimental equipment needed to probe the physical laws in particular areas (very few of us have access to colliders to probe the subatomic laws) doesnt change these laws. It only means that we cannot check the laws. As nonexperts, we must rely on hearsay or the authority of authors who hopefully know better.

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protected by Qmechanic Mar 19 '13 at 14:24

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