There is a new book I’d like to read: Quantum: Einstein, Bohr, and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality, by Manjit Kumar. The book is a non-technical account of the discoveries and arguments that led to the Theory of Quantum Mechanics we rely on today. According to Graham Farmelo’s review of Quantum in the New York Times last month, the book is full of interesting anecdotes about the physicists, their ideas and their disagreements.
Early quantum mechanics is often portrayed as a battlefield from which Bohr emerges victorious while Einstein recedes into the background. Bohr’s view is now taught to almost every undergraduate physics major and philosophers routinely refer to his view as the ‘Standard Interpretation’. However, it is interesting to note that Kumar cites a study of 90 physicists at a conference in which only four said they accepted Bohr’s view—so perhaps the view is not so standard after all! I thought it was quite interesting that another 30 said they preferred the Everettian interpretation (now very popular among Oxford philosophers) while 50 said they were undecided. Most philosophers of physics think that in addition to the Everett view, broadly speaking, only two other interpretations are tenable: Bohmian mechanics, which has been developed by Sheldon Goldstein et al, and the Ghirardi, Rimini and Weber view (GRW), which has been developed by Roderich Tumulka et al.
By Hilary Greaves , Rutgers University
(Vol. 1, December 2006)
One of the most influential physicists of the twentieth century, Niels Bohr was born in Copenhagen on …
By DUGALD MURDOCH