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Mount Rushmore of Quantum Foundations

  • Albert Einstein, and Erwin Schrödinger, two of the founding fathers. These men were bold enough to call for an alternative theoretical construction which would empirically agree with quantum theory, yet which would restore completeness and objectivity to our description of nature.

    Einstein, in a letter to Schrödinger:

    "You are the only person with whom I am actually willing to come to terms. Almost all the other fellows do not look from the facts to the theory but from the theory to the facts; they cannot extricate themselves from a once accepted conceptual net, but only flop about in it in a grotesque way."

    Einstein on quantum theory:

    • (From his answer to Heisenberg's defense of orthodoxy (see Dialogue between Einstein and Heisenberg ) )
      "...every theory in fact contains unobservable quantities. The principle of employing only observable quantities simply cannot be consistently carried out."

    • "What does not satisfy me, from the standpoint of principle, is (quantum theory's) attitude toward that which appears to be the programmatic aim of all physics: the complete description of any (individual) real situation (as it supposedly exists irrespective of any act of observation or substantiation)"

    Schrödinger on quantum theory:

    • "If we have to go on with these damned quantum jumps, then I'm sorry that I ever got involved."

    • "Let me say at the outset, that in this discourse, I am opposing not a few special statements of quantum mechanics held today, I am opposing as it were the whole of it, I am opposing its basic views...
      ... it would seem that, according to the quantum theorist, nature is prevented from rapid jellification only by our perceiving or observing it. And I wonder that he is not afraid, when he puts a ten-pound note [his wrist watch] into his drawer in the evening, he might find it dissolved in the morning, because he has not kept watching it."

  • John Stewart Bell, who elaborated the concerns of Einstein and Schrödinger more clearly than anyone, via his championing the cause of hidden variables, and in particular de Broglie and Bohm's hidden variables.

    • (A statement appearing to support Einstein's remarks in Dialogue between Einstein and Heisenberg)
      "But to admit things not visible to the gross creatures that we are is, in my opinion, to show a decent humility, and not just a lamentable addiction to metaphysics."

    • "The usual nomenclature, `hidden variables' is most unfortunate. Pragmatically minded people can well ask `why bother about hidden variables that have no effect on anything?' Of course, every time a scintillation occurs on screen, every time an observation yields one thing rather than another, the value of a hidden variable is revealed. Perhaps uncontrolled variable would have been better, for these variables, by hypothesis, for the time being, cannot be manipulated by us."

    • "The 'Problem' then, is this: how exactly is the world to be divided into speakable apparatus...that we can talk about...and unspeakable quantum system that we cannot talk about? How many electrons, or atoms, or molecules, make an `apparatus'? The mathematics of the ordinary theory requires such a division, but says nothing about how it is to be made... ...Should not fundamental theory permit exact mathematical formulation?

      Now in my opinion... ...The quantum phenomena do not exclude a uniform description of micro and macro worlds...system and apparatus. It is not essential to introduce a vague division of the world of this kind. This was indicated already by de Broglie in 1926, when he answered the conumdrum

      wave or particle?

      by

      wave and particle.

      By the time this was fully clarified by Bohm in 1952, few theoretical physicists wanted to hear about it. The orthodox line seemed fully justified by practical success. Even now the de Broglie-Bohm picture is generally ignored, and not taught to students. I think this is a great loss. For that picture exercises the mind in a very salutary way."

    • "Why is the pilot wave picture [de Broglie and Bohm's hidden variables] ignored in text books? Should it not be taught, not as the only way, but as an antidote to the prevailing complacency? To show that vagueness, subjectivity, and indeterminism are not forced upon us by experimental facts, but by deliberate theoretical choice?"

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