|Hong asked: |
Bill, And Jody added,
What exactly did Heisenberg or Schrodinger say about science that you consider crazy?
Bill, No, I understand. These statements pertain to their interpretation of scientific experiments and to the conclusions the scientists have drawn from them. Science isn't simply raw experimental data; it involves interpretation, such as the Copenhagen interpretation, right?
With all due respect, you may have heard some crazy philosophy uttered from the mouths of scientists, such as Heisenberg and Schroedinger, but have you heard crazy science? If so, then please refute them...the history of physics awaits you with bated breath. And no, asinine statements about philosophy or economics, or any field outside their specialty does not discredit them from arguing science, which is their field of specialty. My argument was not against scientists making ridiculous statements that expand beyond their specialty, but about those with a pop-sci understanding (or even less) making pronouncements against science.
Here is what Heisenberg wrote in his 1927 paper on the uncertainty principle: "I believe that the existence of the classical 'path' can be pregnantly formulated as follows: The 'path' comes into existence only when we observe it. " And here is what a commentator had to say, "Heisenberg realized that the uncertainty relations had profound implications. First, if we accept Heisenberg's argument that every concept has a meaning only in terms of the experiments used to measure it, we must agree that things that cannot be measured really have no meaning in physics. Thus, for instance, the path of a particle has no meaning beyond the precision with which it is observed. But a basic assumption of physics since Newton has been that a "real world" exists independently of us, regardless of whether or not we observe it. (This assumption did not go unchallenged, however, by some philosophers.) Heisenberg now argued that such concepts as orbits of electrons do not exist in nature unless and until we observe them."
Schroedinger wrote, “The burden of proof falls on those who champion absolute causality, not on those who question it.” And: “Chance is the common root of all the rigid conformity to law that has been observed.” Of course, contrary to Schroedinger, chance is an epistemological concept, not a metaphysical one; it pertains simply to our lack of knowledge about an event and about the causes of that event, not to the causes themselves. If I flip a coin into the air, I can say that there’s a 50/50 chance that it will land heads or tails, because I don’t know precisely how it will land, but “chance” has nothing to do with how it will actually land, which is determined by the nature of the forces acting on it.
As if this weren't bad enough, Schroedinger also wrote: ““We have been compelled to dismiss the idea that a particle is an individual entity which in principle retains its identity forever; it is beyond doubt that the question of sameness – of identity – really and truly has no meaning.”
Not to be outdone, Heisenberg wrote, “It is useful to remember that even in the most precise part of science, in mathematics, we cannot avoid using concepts that involve contradictions. Modern physics has perhaps opened the door to a wider outlook on the relationship between the human mind and reality.” What outlook is that? One that includes contradictions, evidently!
Schroedinger described a thought experiment involving a cat as a way to illustrate the contemporary interpretation of quantum physics: “A cat is penned up in a steel chamber along with the following diabolical device. In a Geiger counter, there is a teeny bit of radioactive substance, so small that in perhaps the course of one hour, one atom decays, but also with equal probability, perhaps none. If an atom decays, the Geiger counter discharges and through a relay, releases a hammer that shatters a small flask of hydrogen cyanide. If one has left this entire system to itself for an hour, one would say that the cat lived if meanwhile no atom has decayed. The first atomic decay would have poisoned it.”
Also, the entire apparatus is enclosed in a box that the experimenter cannot see in. According to quantum theory, the radioactive decay of an atom happens purely by chance, and is described by a probability function. After the box has been closed for an hour, the theory describes the system as an equal mixture of two states, one in which the atom has decayed and the cat is dead, and one in which no atom has decayed and the cat is alive.
Physicist John Gribbon commented on Schroedinger’s thought experiment: “Until we look inside the box, there is a radioactive sample that is both decayed and not decayed, a glass vessel of poison that is neither broken nor unbroken, and a cat that is both dead and alive, neither alive nor dead. Schroedinger thought up the example in order to establish that there was a flaw in the Copenhagen interpretation, since obviously, the cat cannot be both alive and dead at the same time. But is this any more obvious than the fact that an electron cannot be both a particle and a wave at the same time? Common sense has already been tested as a guide to quantum reality and found wanting. The one sure thing we can know about the quantum world is not to trust our common sense.”
According to the Copenhagen interpretation, we must abandon Aristotle’s law of the excluded middle. What Gribbon refers to as “common sense” is but another term for rationality. What he should have said is that rationality has already been tested as a guide to quantum reality and found wanting!