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Quantum Theory and Common Sense: It's Complicated

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Physical theories can open new vistas of human thought, suggesting that the world is not what it seems to be. This situation presents itself as a conflict between the scientific account of the world and “common sense”, a conflict that scientists sometimes gleefully portray as the defeat of common sense. There are clear historical episodes of this character.Copernicus, for example, proposed that instead of the Earth being fixed in place with the Sun, planets and stars whirling around it, it is the Earth itself that is spinning on its axis and orbiting the Sun. A quick calculation shows that locations at the equator would then be moving at about a thousand miles an hour due to the rotation of the Earth, and the whole Earth moving over million miles a day in its orbit around the Sun. In a world in which a speed of 10 miles an hour would be considered fast, these sorts of apparently unnoticed motions defied common sense. If the Earth is spinning so fast, one wonders, how could the birds in...

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