Are there alternatives to our present theories of physical reality? by Peter Rowlands

Our notions of what is physically ‘real’ have long been based on the idea that the real is what is immediately apprehended, that is the local or observable, the physically tangible, though there has always been an alternative philosophical notion that the ‘real’ is some kind of ontological structure beyond immediate apprehension, and so inaccessible through physics. However, quantum mechanics, with its intrinsic nonlocal correlations, has seemingly left us with a dilemma by showing that fundamental physical theories cannot be both real and local. Reality cannot be reconstructed as a deterministic projection from physical observations. Many people think that the problem lies with quantum mechanics, but, in fact, it is more likely to be a result of unrealistic expectations. We have assumed that fundamental physics ought to be compatible with normal (macroscopic) experience. If, however, we go beyond our current high-level physical theories to the basic elements from which they are constructed, we see that a pattern emerges that gives us a very different and much more coherent understanding of what is meant by physical ‘reality’.