torsdag 29 augusti 2013

Quantum Contradictions 17: David Bohm

David Joseph Bohm (20 December 1917 – 27 October 1992) was an American theoretical physicist who contributed innovative and unorthodox ideas to quantum theory, philosophy of mind, and neuropsychology. He is widely considered to be one of the most significant theoretical physicists of the 20th century. (Wikipedia)

Bohm struggled throughout his professional life to make sense out of quantum mechanics based on a deeply felt doubt in the accepted Copenhagen interpretation, as expressed in the following dialogue with David Peat:

Peat: What would you say to the prevailing belief that the mathematical formalism itself expresses the very essence of our knowledge of nature? 

Bohm: Of course, some scientists, notably the Pythagoreans, held views like this in ancient times...But this notion that the mathematical formalism expresses the essence of our knowledge about nature did not become commonly accepted until relatively recent times. 

Peat: But how did this emphasis on mathematics come about?

Bohm: It was really because quantum theory, and to a lesser extent relativity theory, were never understood adequately in terms of physical concepts that physics gradually slipped into a practice of talking mostly about the equations....To some extent this began as early as the 1920s when the astronomer Sir James Jeans proposed that God must be mathematician. Heisenberg later gave it enormous boost with his idea that science could no longer visualize atomic reality in terms of physical concepts and that mathematics is the basic expression of our knowledge of reality....Now I don't agree with these developments. In fact, I feel that the current emphasis on mathematics has gone too far.

Yes, it has certainly gone too far when what is left in physics is a mathematical equation such as Schrödinger's equation, which is not viewed to describe physical reality and thus cannot be motivated from physical principles and in addition cannot be solved neither analytically nor computationally, except in a few simple cases.

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