onsdag 29 april 2015

Heisenberg's Nobel Lecture: Goodbye to Visualization, Reality and Physics

The problems of language here are really serious. We wish to speak in some way about the structure of the atoms. But we cannot speak about atoms in ordinary language.

In our search of a mathematical model of atoms which can be given a real physical meaning in the sense of classical continuuum mechanics, it is instructive to study Heisenberg's 1933 Nobel lecture The Development of Quantum Mechanics, arguing that in the new quantum mechanics of Bohr-Hesienberg-Born, reality (visualization) has to be given up:
  • The impossibility of harmonizing the Maxwellian theory with the pronouncedly visual concepts expressed in the hypothesis of light quanta subsequently compelled research workers to the conclusion that radiation phenomena can only be understood by largely renouncing their immediate visualization. 
  • Classical physics seemed the limiting case of visualization of a fundamentally unvisualizable microphysics, the more accurately realizable the more Planck’s constant vanishes relative to the parameters of the system. 
  • the fundamental dissimilarity between the atomic spectrum and the classical spectrum of an electron system imposes the need to relinquish the concept of an electron path and to forego a visual descripion of the atom. 
  • In this situation, therefore, the obvious policy was to relinquish at first the concept of electron paths altogether, despite its substantiation by Wilson’s experiments, and, as it were, to attempt subsequently how much of the electron-path concept can be carried over into quantum mechanics. 
  • The very fact that the formalism of quantum mechanics cannot be interpreted as visual description of a phenomenon occurring in space and time shows that quantum mechanics is in no way concerned with the objective determination of space-time phenomena. 
  • Owing to these limits of accuracy as defined by the uncertainty relations, moreover, a visual picture of the atom free from ambiguity has not been determined.
  • Quantum mechanics makes possible the treatment of atomic processes by partially foregoing their space-time description and objectification. 
  • But however the development proceeds in detail, the path so far traced by the quantum theory indicates that an understanding of those still unclarified features of atomic physics can only be acquired by foregoing visualization and objectification to an extent greater than that customary hitherto. 
  • We have probably no reason to regret this, because the thought of the great epistemological difficulties with which the visual atom concept of earlier physics had to contend gives us the hope that the abstracter atomic physics developing at present will one day fit more harmoniously into the great edifice of Science. 
We read that Heisenberg seeks to convince us that visualization, which is a prime element of classical macrophysics, must be given up in modern microphysics. 

But this is nothing but a complete collapse of physics as the King of Science: What makes science different from religion is that science is about existing reality, and existence which cannot be visualized cannot be real. This is a tragedy, cherished by e.g. Lubos Motl in a recent post. 

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