lördag 25 juli 2015

Frank Wilczek: Ugly Answer to Ugly Question


In his new book A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature's Deep Design, Frank Wilczek (Nobel Prize in Physics 2004) starts out stating the questions (or paradoxes) which motivated the development of modern physics:

In the quantum world of atoms and light, Nature treats us to a show of strange and seemingly impossible feats. Two of these feats seemed, when discovered, particularly impossible:
  • Light comes in lumps. This is demonstrated in the photoelectric effect, as we’ll discuss momentarily. It came as a shock to physicists. After Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory was confirmed in Hertz’s experiments (and later many others), physicists had thought they understood what light is. Namely, light is electromagnetic waves. But electromagnetic waves are continuous.
  • Atoms have parts, but are perfectly rigid. Electrons were first clearly identified in 1897, by J. J. Thomson. The most basic facts about atoms were elucidated over the following fifteen years or so. In particular: atoms consist of tiny nuclei containing almost all of their mass and all of their positive electric charge, surrounded by enough negatively charged electrons to make a neutral whole. Atoms come in different sizes, depending on the chemical element, but they’re generally in the ballpark of $10^{-8}$ centimeters, a unit of length called an angstrom. Atomic nuclei, however, are a hundred thousand times smaller. The paradox: How can such a structure be stable? Why don’t the electrons simply succumb to the attractive force from the nucleus, and dive in.
  • These paradoxical facts led Einstein and Bohr, respectively, to propose some outrageous, half-right hypotheses that served as footholds on the steep ascent to modern quantum theory. 
  • After epic struggles, played out over more than a decade of effort and debate, an answer emerged. It has held up to this day, and its roots have grown so deep that it seems unlikely ever to topple.
Wilczek then proceeds to prepare us to accept the answers offered by the modern physics of quantum mechanics as the result of epic struggles:
  • The framework known as quantum theory, or quantum mechanics, was mostly in place by the late 1930s. 
  • Quantum theory is not a specific hypothesis, but a web of closely intertwined ideas. I do not mean to suggest quantum theory is vague—it is not. 
  • With rare and usually temporary exceptions, when faced with any concrete physical problem, all competent practitioners of quantum mechanics will agree about what it means to address that problem using quantum theory. 
  • But few, if any, would be able to say precisely what assumptions they have made to get there. Coming to terms with quantum theory is a process, through which the work will teach you how to do it.
We learn that quantum mechanics is not built on specific hypotheses or assumptions, but nevertheless is not vague, and instead rather is a process monitored by competent practitioners. In any case, Wilczek proceeds to give us a glimpse of the basic hypothesis:
  • In quantum theory’s description of the world, the fundamental objects are ....wave functions.
  • Any valid physical question about a physical system can be answered by consulting its wave function.
  • But the relation between question and answer is not straightforward. Both the way that wave functions answer questions and the answers they give have surprising—not to say weird—features.
OK, so we are now enlightened by understanding that the answers that come out are weird. Wilczek continues:
  • I will focus on the specific sorts of wave functions we need to describe the hydrogen atom: 
  • We are interested, then, in the wave function that describes a single electron bound by electric forces to a tiny, much heavier proton.
  • Before discussing the electron’s wave function, we’ll do well to describe its probability cloud. The probability cloud is closely related to the wave function. The probability cloud is easier to understand than the wave function, and its physical meaning is more obvious, but it is less fundamental. (Those oracular statements will be fleshed out momentarily).
  • Quantum mechanics does not give simple equations for probability clouds. Rather, probability clouds are calculated from wave functions.
  • The wave function of a single particle, like its probability cloud, assigns an amplitude to all possible positions of the particle. In other words, it assigns a number to every point in space. 
  • To pose questions, we must perform specific experiments that probe the wave function in different ways.
  • You get probabilities, not definite answers.
  • You don’t get access to the wave function itself, but only a peek at processed versions of it.
  • Answering different questions may require processing the wave function in different ways.
  • Each of those three points raises big issues.
Wilczek then tackles these issues by posing new questions, or lacking question by retreating to an admirable attitude of humility in a lesson of wisdom
  • The first raises the issue of determinism. Is calculating probabilities really the best we can do?
  • The second raises the issue of many worlds. What does the full wavefunction describe, when we’re not peeking? Does it represent a gigantic expansion of reality, or is it just a mind tool, no more real than a dream?
  • The third raises the issue of complementarity....It is a lesson in humility that quantum theory forces to our attention. To probe is to interact, and to interact is potentially to disturb.
  • Complementarity is both a feature of physical reality and a lesson in wisdom.
We see that Wilczek sells the usual broth of strange and seemingly impossible feats, weird features, and outrageous half-right hypotheses, all raising big issues. Wilczek sums up by the following quote of Walt Whitman under the headline COMPLEMENTARITY AS WISDOM:

             Do I contradict myself?
             Very well, then, I contradict myself,
              I am large, I contain multitudes.

But physics is not poetry, and contradictory poetry does not justify contradictory physics. Contradictory mathematical physics cannot be true real physics, not even meaningful poetry. To get big by contradiction is a trade of politics, which is ugly and not beautiful.

Nevertheless, Wilczek started his Nobel lecture as follows:
  • In theoretical physics, paradoxes are good. That’s paradoxical, since a paradox appears to be a contradiction, and contradictions imply serious error. But Nature cannot realize contradictions. When our physical theories lead to paradox we must find a way out. Paradoxes focus our attention, and we think harder.
We understand that to Wilczek/modern physicists, contradictions are good rather than catastrophical and the more paradox the better, since it makes physicists focus attention to think harder.  Beautiful. For more excuses, see What Is Quantum Theory. Wilczek here retells the story of the Father (or Dictator) of Quantum Mechanics, Niels Bohr:
  • How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress.
The paradox presented itself in 1925, but what happened to the hope of progress? Is paradoxical physics the physics of our time? Does light come in lumps? Why are atoms stable? Despite paradoxes, no real progress for 90 years!!??

PS1 Here is the question killing the probability interpretation of the wave function: Since the wave function for the ground state of Hydrogen is non-zero even far away from the kernel, does it mean that there is a non-zero chance of experimentally detecting a Hydrogen ground state electron far away from the kernel it is associated with? Or the other way around, since the wave function is maximal at zero distance from the kernel, does it mean that one will mostly find the electron hiding inside the kernel?

PS2 Beauty is an expression of order and deep design, not of disorder and lack of design. An atomistic world ruled by chance can be beautiful only to a professional statistician obsessed by computing mean values.

PS3 Not Even Wrong presents the book as follows: Frank Wilczek’s new book, A Beautiful Question, is now out and if you’re at all interested in issues about beauty and the deep structure of reality, you should find a copy and spend some time with it. As he explains at the very beginning:
  • This book is a long meditation on a single question:
  • Does the world embody beautiful ideas?
To me (and I think to Wilczek), the answer to the question has always been an unambiguous “Yes”. The more difficult question is “what does such a claim about beauty and the world mean?” and that’s the central concern of the book.

PS4 Wilczek expresses a tendency shared by many modern physicists of pretending to know all of chemistry "in principle", simply by writing down a Schrödinger equation on a piece of paper, however without actually being able to predict anything specific because solutions of the equation cannot by computed: 
  • Wave functions that fully describe the physical state of several electrons occupy spaces of very high dimension. The wave function for two electrons lives in a six-dimensional space, the wave function for three electrons lives in a nine-dimensional space, and so forth. The equations for these wave functions rapidly become quite challenging to solve, even approximately, and even using the most powerful computers. This is why chemistry remains a thriving experimental enterprise, even though in principle we know the equations that govern it, and that should enable us to calculate the results of experiments in chemistry without having to perform them.
In this illusion game, the uncomputability of the Schrödinger's many-dimensional equation relieves the physicist from the real task of explaining the actual physics of chemistry, while the physicist can still safely take the role of being in charge of principal theoretical chemistry underlying a "thriving experimental enterprise", which "in principle" is superfluous. Beautiful? 


måndag 13 juli 2015

Johan Rockström: CO2 Global Warming May Prevent New Ice Age



Johan Rockström, Executive Director of Stockholm Resilience Centre and leading Swedish CO2 global warming alarmist, admits that emission of CO2 may prevent new ice age (1.24 into news program):
  • Paradoxically this appears to be a positive effect of global warming.
This adds another paradox to the already long list of paradoxes of CO2 global warming.

lördag 4 juli 2015

Collapse of Modern Physics: Mainau Declaration 2015 on Climate Change


The Mainau Declaration 2015 on Climate Change made at the 65th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting on Mainau Island at Lake Constance and signed by the following physicists,  among 35 other Laureates, Stephen Chu, Peter Doherty, David Gross, Brian Schmidt and George Smooth, states that (with my numbering an comments added):
  1. We believe that our world today faces another threat (global warming) of comparable magnitude to that of nuclear weapons. (Comparable in what sense?)
  2. Successive generations of scientists have helped create a more and more prosperous world. (Physicists are helping mankind to prosperity) 
  3. This prosperity has come at the cost of a rapid rise in the consumption of the world’s resources. (Poor people are consuming more and more)
  4. If left unchecked, our ever-increasing demand for food, water, and energy will eventually overwhelm the Earth’s ability to satisfy humanity’s needs, and will lead to wholesale human tragedy. (Ultimate doomsday scenario. Purpose?)
  5. Already, scientists who study Earth’s climate are observing the impact of human activity.  (What impact?)
  6. In response to the possibility of human-induced climate change, the United Nations established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to provide the world’s leaders a summary of the current state of relevant scientific knowledge. (Scientists will tell what to do)
  7. While by no means perfect, we believe that the efforts that have led to the current IPCC Fifth Assessment Report represent the best source of information regarding the present state of knowledge on climate change. (Best source compared to what?)
  8. We say this not as experts in the field of climate change, but rather as a diverse group of scientists who have a deep respect for and understanding of the integrity of the scientific process. (Physicists know nothing about climate)
  9. Although there remains uncertainty as to the precise extent of climate change, the conclusions of the scientific community contained in the latest IPCC report are alarming, especially in the context of the identified risks of maintaining human prosperity in the face of greater than a 2°C rise in average global temperature. (Uncertainty as to precise extent? But alarming! Identified risks? Human prosperity to whom?)
  10. The report concludes that anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the likely cause of the current global warming of the Earth. Predictions from the range of climate models indicate that this warming will very likely increase the Earth’s temperature over the coming century by more than 2°C above its pre-industrial level unless dramatic reductions are made in anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases over the coming decades. (Effect of dramatic reduction? On climate? On people?)
  11. Based on the IPCC assessment, the world must make rapid progress towards lowering current and future greenhouse gas emissions to minimize the substantial risks of climate change. (Rapid progress? Minimize substantial risks?)
  12. We believe that the nations of the world must take the opportunity at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in December 2015 to take decisive action to limit future global emissions. (Decisive actions by whom? Limit future global emissions, for whom?) 
  13. This endeavor will require the cooperation of all nations, whether developed or developing, and must be sustained into the future in accord with updated scientific assessments. (Physicists will tell the world what to do)
  14. Failure to act will subject future generations of humanity to unconscionable and unacceptable risk. (Failure to do what? What is unconscionable and unacceptable risk?
The fact that Physics Nobel Laureates sign a political document like this can be seen as a logical consequence of the collapse in modern physics of the rationality of classical physics, a collapse into stupidity which will subject future generations of humanity to unconscionable and unacceptable risks. 

torsdag 25 juni 2015

Modern Physics: Meaningless Sacrifice of Causality, Rationality and Reality?

Hermann von Helmholtz in Conservation of Force (1862-63): Reason we call that faculty innate in us of discovering laws and applying them with thought...there is a kind, I might almost say, of artistic satisfaction,when we are able to survey the enormous wealth of Nature as a regular-ordered whole--a cosmos, an image of the logical thought of our mind.

Modern physics in the form of relativity theory and quantum mechanics was born from a perceived impossibility of solving the following "problems" using methods of classical deterministic continuum physics:
  1. Second law of thermodynamics (irreversibility in formally reversible systems).
  2. Blackbody radiation (including avoidance of an ultraviolet catastrophe).
  3. Existence of a unique aether medium for propagation of electromagnetic waves. 
Boltzmann "solved" 1. by introducing statistical physics, thus giving up classical determinism or causality.

Planck "solved" 2. introducing a smallest quantum of energy, thus giving up the classical continuum of rational mechanics.

Einstein "solved" 3. by freeing electromagnetics from an aether, thus giving up classical coordinates of space and time describing reality. 

In each case the sacrifice of pillars classical physics was monumental and the grandness of the sacrifice was taken as a sign that it was inevitable and thus justified: No physicist would be willing the give up so much, unless it was absolutely necessary, as expressed by Planck excusing his introducing of the quantum:
  • ...the whole procedure was an act of despair because a theoretical interpretation had to be found at any price, no matter how high that might be...
But if one day it shows that 1-3 in fact can be handled using a mild extension of classical deterministic continuum physics, then the monumental sacrifices would be unnecessary and then without rationale.

And yes, it may be that such a mild extension is possible in the form of finite precision computation exposed on The World as Computation.

This connects to Helmholtz' approach to 1. with heat as partly "incalculable" or "disordered" energy as energy with limited capability of being transformed to other forms of ("calculable") energy. This brings us back to the peak of classical physics represented by the mechanism of Helmholtz:
  • Natural phenomena should be traced back to the movements of material objects which possess inalterable motive forces that are dependent only on spatial relations.
  • Science, the goal of which is the comprehension of nature, must begin with the presupposition of its comprehensibility  and proceed in accordance with this assumption until, perhaps, it is forced by irrefutable facts to recognise limits beyond it may not go.
It thus appears to be possible to handle 1. and 2. by classical mechanism modified by finite precision computation. Further, 3. may be handled as suggested by the British physicist Ebenezer Cunningham (1881-1977) by viewing an aether is an immaterial space-time coordinate systems with the observed non-existence of a unique aether medium simply as an expression of the possibility of choosing many immaterial aethers/coordinate systems.

It thus may be that the monumental sacrifices made by modern physicists in order to cope with 1-3, are not necessary, and as such represent human stupidity, rather than heroic victory of the power of the human mind as official truth of modern physics propagated by modern physicists. 

tisdag 23 juni 2015

QM on Shaky Ground, Still after 90 Years

Encyclopedia of Mathematical Physics (2006) states in Introductory Article: Quantum Mechanics:
  • QM in its present formulation is a refined and and successful instrument for the description of the non relativistic phenomena at the Planck scale, but its internal inconsistency is still standing on shaky ground.
  • In this section we describe some of the conceptual problems which plague present day QM...
How is it possible that today 90 years after the formulation of Schrödinger's equation as the foundation of QM, this foundation is still inconsistent and shaky, plagued by conceptual problems. What have physicists been doing all these years?

Solway Conference 1927

torsdag 18 juni 2015

New Theory of Flight Accepted for Publication in Journal of Mathematical Fluid Mechanics

The ground-breaking article New Theory of Flight is now accepted for publication in Journal of Mathematical Fluid Mechanics. The paralyzing spells of Prandtl, father of modern fluid mechanics, and Kutta and Zhukovsky, fathers of modern aerodynamics, are now finally broken after more than 100 years of misleading unphysical mathematics. A post-modern era of (computational mathematical) fluid mechanics and aerodynamics is now approaching...

söndag 14 juni 2015

Spencer Struggles with The Greenhouse Effect and Dragons

Roy Spencer continues his long struggle to convince the world that the Greenhouse Effect as the scientific foundation of CO2 global warming hysteria, is real physics:
  • I’ve had a request to (once again) go through an explanation of the (poorly-named) Greenhouse Effect (GHE). Hopefully there is something which follows that will help you understand this complex subject.
Here is Roy's explanation:
  • The atmosphere DOES absorb IR energy. The IR absorption coefficients at various wavelengths, temperature, and pressures have been measured for water vapor, CO2, etc., in laboratories and published for decades.
  • This absorption means the atmosphere also EMITS IR energy, both upward and downward. And it is that DOWNWARD flow of IR energy (sometimes called “back radiation”) which is necessary for net warming of the surface from the greenhouse effect.
Then Roy reveals the reason behind his irresistible urge to educate the world about the greenhouse effect:
  • (Technical diversion: This is where the Sky Dragon Slayers get tripped up. They claim the colder atmosphere cannot emit IR downward toward a warmer surface below, when in fact all the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics would require is that the NET flow of energy in all forms be from higher temperature to lower temperature. This is still true in my discussion.)
Roy's heavy weapon intended to kill those nasty Sky Dragon Slayers is:
  • You can measure the greenhouse effect yourself with a handheld IR thermometer pointed at the sky, which measures the temperature change caused by a change in downwelling IR radiation. In a clear sky, the indicated temperature pointing straight up (“seeing” higher altitudes) will be colder than if pointed at an angle (measuring lower altitudes). This is direct evidence of the greenhouse effect…changes in downwelling IR change the temperature of a surface (the microbolometer in the handheld IR thermometer). That is the greenhouse effect.
Then Roy shows that he is a humble and open-minded serious scientist: 
  • If I’ve make a mistake in the above, I’ll fix it. I realize some might not like the way I’ve phrased certain things. But I’ve been working in this field over 20 years, and the above is the best I can do in 1-2 hours time....you will find it is a complex subject, indeed.
And yes Roy,  you make a mistake by uncritically accepting a reading of a hand-held IR-thermometer, which being a thermometer measures temperature, as evidence of the reality of downward IR. You can read about your mistake under the category "pyrgeometer" including the following key posts:
And so Roy, what is your reaction to the evidence I present?

PS Roy appears to filter my comment to his post with a link to the above. Of course, it is Roy's responsibility to guarantee that his readers and users/buyers (not to speak of manufacturers such as  Kipp&Zonen) of hand-held IR-thermometers, are not reached by disturbing information: Nobody wants to get told that the reading of a thermometer is temperature, since that is so evident to anyone with slightest education in science. In particular, Roy does not want to get told that he has been cheated by Kipp&Zonen in believing that the thermometer he bought measures Downwelling Longwave Radiation (DLR) and not temperature , and accordingly will no respond to my question. Under the choice of saying something (and revealing ignorance), and saying nothing (only indicating ignorance), Roy chooses to say nothing. But nothing is nothing.


lördag 13 juni 2015

The Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics??

If you ask a physicist today about the foundations of modern physics (the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics), you will get most likely get the answer that all basic questions were answered long ago and neither questions nor answers need to be repeated. In short, "science is settled", and the question now is simply how to advance physics further into the unknowns of dark matter, dark energy, string theory and multiversa.

In particular, the answer for quantum mechanics is the Copenhagen Interpretation coined by Heisenberg in the 1950s as an expression of the influence of the Danish physicist Niels Bohr during the formative years of modern physics following the introduction by Max Planck in 1900 of the smallest quantum of action $h$. 

One of the few who still worries about the foundations of quantum mechanics is Lubos Motl, who in a sequence of posts on The Reference Frame states his commitment to the Copenhagen Interpretation based on the following postulates:
  1. A system is completely described by a wave function ψ, representing an observer's subjective knowledge of the system. (Heisenberg)
  2. The description of nature is essentially probabilistic, with the probability of an event related to the square of the amplitude of the wave function related to it. (The Born rule, after Max Born)
  3. It is not possible to know the value of all the properties of the system at the same time; those properties that are not known with precision must be described by probabilities. (Heisenberg's uncertainty principle)
  4. Matter exhibits a wave–particle duality. An experiment can show the particle-like properties of matter, or the wave-like properties; in some experiments both of these complementary viewpoints must be invoked to explain the results, according to the complementarity principle of Niels Bohr.
  5. Measuring devices are essentially classical devices, and measure only classical properties such as position and momentum.
  6. The quantum mechanical description of large systems will closely approximate the classical description. (The correspondence principle of Bohr and Heisenberg)  
Let us now analyze these postulates from scientific point of view. We find:
  1. The idea that the wave function represents the subjective knowledge of a system, makes quantum mechanics into a personal experience, which cannot be science.
  2. The idea that nature "essentially is probabilistic" is an ad hoc assumption, which can never be experimentally tested and thus does not belong to science.
  3. Impossibility of knowledge contradicts scientific principle: Why does certain knowledge make other knowledge impossible?
  4. Wave-particle duality as contradictory reality, does no make sense.
  5. Divison of physics into "classical" and "non-classical" is without reason. Physics is physics.
  6. Without division between "classical" and "non-classical", the idea that "non-classical" will approximate "classical", lacks rationale.  
I leave to the reader to evaluate the scientific value and rationality of these postulates supposedly expressing the contribution to humanity and the science of physics from what is called "modern physics". 

The Creation of Quantum Mechanics: The True Story by J Hendry Part 1

The Creation of Quantum Mechanics and the Bohr-Pauli Dialog by John Hendry is presented as
  • a genuine "history" as opposed to a mere technical report or popular or semi-popular account.
  • My aims in making this attempt have been to satisfy the needs of historians of science and, more especially, to promote a serious interest in the history of science among physicists and physics students.
Hendry states in the Introduction:
  • On one hand the quantum theory has continued in all its formulations to show a remarkable predictive power in respect of experimental observations. In this respect it must rank as an extraordinarily successful physical theory, and as one that will not easily be displaced.
  • On the other hand, however, dissatisfaction with the conceptual foundations of the theory has also apparently endured. 
  • Many working physicists are seemingly content to accept what Einstein referred to as the "gentle pillow" of the Copenhagen interpretation without asking any further questions, and this has long been accepted as an orthodox position.
  • But if we restrict our attention to physicists (or indeed philosophers) of the first rank, then we see immediately that such an orthodoxy is illusory. It was created in the late 1920s when many of the leading quantum physicists, among them Bohr, Born, Heisenberg, Pauli, Dirac, Jordan and von Neumann, sunk their more philosophical differences in an effort to repel the challenge of the semi-classical interpretations and get on with the job of developing quantum electrodynamics. 
  • But those differences remained. Copenhagenism was and is a generic term covering a whole range of related interpretations. Even when these interpretations are taken together, they cannot be considered as an entirely dominant orthodoxy. Among their early opponents some physicists might arguably be dismissed as narrow-sighted conservatives. But such outright dismissal is very difficult to uphold in Einstein's case, and still more so in those of Schrödinger and de Broglie, neither of whose preferred interpretations could reasonably be labelled classical. 
  • More recently attention has shifted from the physical interpretation of quantum mechanics towards the logical and mathematical consistency of quantum field theory, but the issues remain closely connected and opposition to Copenhagenism remains strong. 
  • However, and here lies the crux of the matter, the opponents seem to be no nearer to providing a valid alternative than were their predecessors of the late 1920s. 
  • Beyond the limited compromise of Copenhagenism there is still no such thing as a consistent and generally acceptable interpretation of quantum mechanics, and the evidence of the last fifty years points unerringly to the conclusion that there will not be one until either the structure of our physical conceptions, or our expectations of physical theory, or the quantum theory itself should undergo radical changes more far-reaching than any yet seen.
  • Faced with this dilemma it is tempting to react as did Peter Debye to the problem of electrons in the nucleus, a problem that arose in the immediate wake of quantum mechanics, by treating it as something best ignored, "like the new taxes". 
  • And many physicists have indeed taken this course, either ignoring the interpretative problem altogether (paying the taxes without question) or proceeding stubbornly to seek fundamentally classical interpretations that are demonstrably not there (stalling the taxman). 
  • But whereas such attitudes may be expedient in the short term they are ultimately inconsistent with the very spirit of the scientific enterprise.  
  • The interpretative problem of quantum theory is several orders more fundamental than that of nuclear electrons, and has proved immensely more resistant to attempts at a solution. 
  • But a theory with innate inconsistencies, whatever its present predictive success, cannot be expected to serve for ever. 
  • If the problem, like the tax, does not bear thinking about, then that is the strongest indication we can possibly have that it needs thinking about. 
  • And while it may not be so easily solved we can at least try to understand how such an extreme situation arose in the first place. 
  • One aim of this study, then, is to approach the history of the theory of quantum mechanics as a means of exploring its philosophy. 
What Hendry effectively says is that the foundations of quantum mechanics as physical theory was an inconsistent mess at start hundred years ago and has so remained until now.  How is it then possible that this inconsistent mess "has continued in all its formulations to show a remarkable predictive power in respect of experimental observations"? 

Well, the answer is that since quantum mechanics as a multi-dimensional inconsistent mess is uncomputable, it is impossible to make predictions from theory alone. This means that whatever observation is made, there is a version of quantum mechanical messy theory that can be made to conform with the observation. This is the reason why there is no observation in conflict with any quantum mechanical theory, even though the theory is inconsistent, which of course is used as evidence that the inconsistent messy theory is perfect and consistent and always in perfect consistent  agreement with observation.

In Part 2 I will summarize Hendry's account of the genuine "history" and then ponder Hendry's appeal: quantum theory itself should undergo radical changes more far-reaching than any yet seen.     

fredag 12 juni 2015

Tragedy of Modern Physics: Born's Statistical Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics

Max Born in 1926 just after violating principles of classical physics of reality and causality: 

Max Born was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 1954 for his statistical interpretation of solutions of Schrödinger's wave equation named wave functions. Schrödinger formulated his equation, which has come to serve as the basic mathematical model of the modern physics of quantum mechanics, in a moment of heavenly inspiration in the Alps in 1926 (together with one of his many girl friends), with the objective of interpreting the modulus squared $\vert\psi\vert^2$ of a wave function $\psi$ as charge distribution. 

But there was a problem with this interpretation: For an atom with $N$ electrons, Schrödinger's wave function depends on $3N$ space coordinates, which allows a direct physical meaning only in the case of Hydrogen with $N=1$. Schrödinger could not get around this obstacle and his equation was instead hi-jacked by Heisenberg and Born supported by Bohr and was then twisted into the so-called Copenhagen Interpretation with the wave function a probability distribution of particle positions viewed to represent wave-particle duality as the incarnation of the new physics. 

Schrödinger could not accept this probabilistic destruction of causality, but was effectively marginalized (together with Einstein and Planck and Lorentz and others) by the Bohr Copenhagen school leading the world into a new modern physics of wave-particle duality and complementarity outside classical rationality.  

It did not help that grandfather Lorentz joined Schrödinger's protest:
  •  I care little for the conception of  $\vert\psi^2\vert$  as a probability...In the case of an H-atom there is for a given energy E, also a non-vanishing probability outside the sphere which electrons of energy E cannot leave.      
The Copenhagen interpretation took the lead and today we can see the result as a tragedy of modern physics dominated by string theory and multiversa beyond any rationality.

Born describes in his Nobel lecture the sacrifice of classical ideals (or crime) which a modern physicist must be willing to commit:         
  • It is necessary to drop completely the physical pictures of Schrödinger which aim at a revitalization of the classical continuum theory, to retain only the formalism and to fill that with new physical content.
To commit a crime requires a motivation and to commit a big crime requires a strong motivation. The first step on this road of modern physics was taken by Planck in 1900:
  • The whole procedure was an act of despair because a theoretical interpretation (of black-body radiation) had to be found at any price, no matter how high that might beI was ready to sacrifice any of my previous convictions about physics...For this reason, on the very first day when I formulated this law, I began to devote myself to the task of investing it with true physical meaning.
Einstein followed up in 1905 with his special relativity asking humanity to sacrifice classical concepts of space and time.  In both cases, the grandness of the sacrifice supported credibility. 

In describing his crime Born first gives credit to scientists following the law: 
  • Planck, himself, belonged to the sceptics until he died. Einstein, De Broglie, and Schrödinger have unceasingly stressed the unsatisfactory features of quantum mechanics and called for a return to the concepts of classical, Newtonian physics while proposing ways in which this could be done without contradicting experimental facts. Such weighty views cannot be ignored. 
Born then recalls the historic fact that Bohr was stronger, adding an excuse that the crime rather concerns philosophy than physics:  
  • Niels Bohr has gone to a great deal of trouble to refute the objections. I, too, have ruminated upon them and believe I can make some contribution to the clarification of the position. The matter concerns the borderland between physics and philosophy, and so my physics lecture  will partake of both history and philosophy, for which I must crave your indulgence.
  • The work, for which I have had the honour to be awarded the Nobel Prize for 1954, contains no discovery of a fresh natural phenomenon, but rather the basis for a new mode of thought in regard to natural phenomena.
Next follows an excuse with reference to "intellectual crisis": 
  • The first point is this: the work at the Göttingen school, which I directed at that time (1926-I927), contributed to the solution of an intellectual crisis into which our science had fallen as a result of Planck’s discovery of the quantum of action in 1900.
  • At the beginning of the twenties, every physicist, I think, was convinced that Planck’s quantum hypothesis was correct. According to this theory energy appears in finite quanta of magnitude $h\nu$ in oscillatory processes having a specific frequency $\nu$ (e.g. in light waves). Countless experiments could be explained in this way and always gave the same value of Planck’s constant .
Then Born puts the blame on Heisenberg, his assistant:

  • Heisenberg, who at that time was my assistant, brought this period to a sudden end. He cut the Gordian knot by means of a philosophical principle and replaced guess-work by a mathematical rule. The principle states that concepts and representations that do not correspond to physically observable facts are not to be used in theoretical description. 
  • I was as excited by this result as a sailor would be who, after a long voyage, sees from afar, the longed-for land...I was convinced from the start that we had stumbled on the right path.

Next, the success in the case $N=1$ is taken as evidence that the theory is correct for $N>1$:
  • The first non-trivial and physically important application of quantum mechanics was made shortly afterwards by W. Pauli who calculated the stationary energy values of the hydrogen atom by means of the matrix method and found complete agreement with Bohr’s formulae. From this moment onwards there could no longer be any doubt about the correctness of the theory . 
But some doubts presented themselves:
  • What this formalism really signified was, however, by no means clear. Mathematics, as often happens, was cleverer than interpretative thought. 
In any case, Schrödinger's wave equation was accepted as the right thing, but not Schrödinger's interpretation of $\vert\psi\vert^2$ as charge density:
  • Wave mechanics enjoyed a very great deal more popularity than the Göttingen or Cambridge version of quantum mechanics. It operates with a wave function $\psi$, which in the case of one particle at least, can be pictured in space, and it uses the mathematical methods of partial differential equations which are in current use by physicists. Schrödinger thought that his wave theory made it possible to return to deterministic classical physics. He proposed (and he has recently emphasized his proposal anew’s), to dispense with the particle representation entirely, and instead of speaking of electrons as particles, to consider them as a continuous density distributions. 
And then Born's commits the crime:
  • I immediately took up Schrödinger's method and an idea of Einstein’s gave me the lead. He had tried to make the duality of particle-light quanta or photons and waves comprehensible by interpreting the square of the optical wave amplitudes as probability density for the occurrence of photons. 
  • This concept could at once be carried over to the $\psi$-function: it ought to represent the probability density for electrons (or other particles). 
  • It was easy to assert this, but how could it be proved?
Here is Born's justification of the crime:
  • To us in Göttingen Schrödinger's interpretation seemed unacceptable in face of well established experimental facts. At that time it was already possible to count particles by means of scintillations or with a Geiger counter, and to photograph their tracks with the aid of a Wilson cloud chamber. 
with more "proof" from Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle:
  • However, a paper by Heisenberg containing his celebrated uncertainty relationship, contributed more than the above-mentioned successes to the swift acceptance of the statistical interpretation of the $\psi$-function. 
  • It showed that not only the determinism of classical physics must be abandonded, but also the naive concept of reality which looked upon the particles of atomic physics as if they were very small grains of sand.
But Born still struggled with the skeptics of atoms as dice-games: 
  • How does it come about then, that great scientists such as Einstein, Schrödinger, and De Broglie are nevertheless dissatisfied with the situation? Of course, all these objections are levelled not against the correctness of the formulae, but against their interpretation. Two closely knitted points of view are to be distinguished: the question of determinism and the question of reality. 
arguing that everything including classical physics is a dice-game,:
  • The determinism of classical physics turns out to be an illusion, created by overrating mathematico-logical concepts....and cannot, therefore, be used as an objection to the essentially indeterministic statistical interpretation of quantum mechanics.
But finally the self-doubts take over and Born's Nobel lecture given 28 year after the commitment of the crime, ends with questions:
  • Are we still justified in applying to the electron the concept of particle and therefore the ideas associated with it?
  • Somewhere in our doctrine is hidden a concept, unjustified by experience, which we must elim- inate to open up the road. 
  • To come now to the last point: can we call something with which the concepts of position and motion cannot be associated in the usual way, a thing, or a particle? And if not, what is the reality which our theory has been invented to describe?  
To sum up we see that Born's justification of giving up the basic principles of classical physics, boils down to the following shaky weak arguments:
  • A perceived need to make the duality of particle-light quanta or photons and waves comprehensible. 
  • Because a Geiger counter gives a "click", what caused the "click" must be a "particle".
We understand following Schrödinger as inventor of the basic mathematical model of quantum mechanics, if the particle idea is given up, then there is no need to make wave-particle duality "comprehensible", since then waves are enough. What remains is to reformulate Schrödinger's multidimensional wave equation into a system of three-dimensional wave functions representing charge distribution. This is what I now explore as (Computational) Physical Quantum Mechanics.

But the sad truth today is that nobody cares if the fundamentals of physics make sense or not: Quantum mechanics and relativity, although incompatible, is "settled modern physics" with all questions answered once and for all by now dead and gone physicists, who took the answers along into the grave.   

PS Note that Heisenberg received the Nobel Prize in physics in 1932 and Schrödinger shared the Prize with Dirac in 1933, while Born had to wait 20 years until the coining of the Copenhagen Interpretation by Heisenberg in the early 1950s as the official formulation of quantum mechanics.
Today, only a few hard core extremist like Lubos Motl claim that this is the final word to which nothing can be added. The historical dimension of this view is described by A. Pais in the opening of his Address to the Annual Meeting of the Optical Society in 1982 entitled Max Born and the Statistical Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics as follows:
  • The introduction of probability in the sense of quantum mechanics, probability as an inherent feature of physical law, may well be the most drastic scientific change yet effected in the twentieth century. 
In other words: A Big Lie is more credible than a small one, so if you are going to cheat, make it Big. CO2 global warming alarmism gives an example of this tactic, which is now threatening to throw Western civilization back to Stone Age: This is "settled science" which is so Big that it cannot be  questioned!