Understanding Quantum Mechanics: Why It Didn’t Happen Yet, And Why It Matters

Conflict Mentality, Militarism, Petty nationalism Got In The Way Of Quantum Understanding:

Abstract: Civilization advances by jumps, a bit like Quantum Mechanics. Most places, most of the time, contributed nothing to civilization. Look even at Antique Athens: it is mentally creative only over a few generations. Even after a century of Macedonian imposed plutocracy, when Second Century BCE Athens was free and prosperous again, covered with new monuments, having recovered the heart of its old empire (Delos), its famous intellectual class was also present, but amounted, in the end to… nothing. Why? Because the hyper power, the fascizing Roman Republic turning into a plutocracy, is lurking in the background, making Athens gifts it can’t refuse.

Quantum Mechanics was built by Europeans from various conflicting tribes (hence a desire to avoid finding too much truth). Starting in January 1938, the French “War Ministry“. following the lead of Nobel Irene Curie, imposes complete secrecy on the French nuclear bomb program, launching a new mentality of secrecy and military financing of physics festering to this day. So no wonder, the “Shut Up And Calculate!” mentality completely overwhelmed physics: even a top iconoclast physicist such as Feynman grew up working and breathing the Manhattan (nuclear bomb) project.

High energy physics” was of course military financed: always has been always will be: the more energetic military wins…

However, nowadays, it’s possible to do Quantum Foundations physics, experimentally. They will require to push tech further, just as the detection of gravitational waves did. Actually, many obvious Foundations experiments will have to use similar tech, with refined optics.

Pushing for an understanding of Quantum Mechanics is not just that, it is pushing for what deeper understanding is, in general, and why it’s what humans do. The “Shut up and Calculate” mentality is just a glorification of intellectual fascism, and that, per se, is enough to reject it.

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I spent most of my life, decades of it, trying somewhat obsessionally, to understand Quantum Mechanics. It made me lots of enemies: I still remember a friend of mine, a Fields Medal sneering that I “meditated too much” after a seminar on Black Holes I gave at Stanford Physics department. The gist of my drift being that understanding Quantum Mechanics was crucial to Black Hole theory. At the time, although Hawking radiation was known as a possibility, it looked as if I mixed the unmixable… I found better recently: General Relativity itself depends on Quantum Mechanics [1]. What I didn’t understand at the time is that intellectuals are for sale, and the first thing they sell is the mood of conventionalism, not thinking too deep, as this is crucial to the sustainability of the establishment. Digging deep into Quantum Mechanics is the ultimate debasement of conventional thinking. In particular the Copenhagen Interpretation of QM rests on mystical intellectual fascism:”Don’t ask, don’t tell…” (Same as Clinton’s policy with “gays”)

Sean Carroll in New York Times, September 7, 2019: Even Physicists Don’t Understand Quantum Mechanics. Worse, they don’t seem to want to understand it.

By Sean Carroll (Dr. Carroll is a physicist.

“I think I can safely say that nobody really understands quantum mechanics,” observed the physicist and Nobel laureate Richard Feynman. That’s not surprising, as far as it goes. Science makes progress by confronting our lack of understanding, and quantum mechanics has a reputation for being especially mysterious.

What’s surprising is that physicists seem to be O.K. with not understanding the most important theory they have.

This has to do with how Quantum Mechanics evolved, from a number of intellectuals, who knew each other very well, united by debating physics, although they were also deeply antagonistic to each other, below the surface (some were Jews, secular, or hidden, some were Nazis, blatant, or fellow-travelers, some were Germans, some French; they ended up working on nuclear bombs against each other…). Here is Sean Caroll:

Quantum mechanics, assembled gradually by a group of brilliant minds over the first decades of the 20th century, is an incredibly successful theory. We need it to account for how atoms decay, why stars shine, how transistors and lasers work and, for that matter, why tables and chairs are solid rather than immediately collapsing onto the floor.

Scientists can use quantum mechanics with perfect confidence. But it’s a black box. We can set up a physical situation, and make predictions about what will happen next that are verified to spectacular accuracy. What we don’t do is claim to understand quantum mechanics. Physicists don’t understand their own theory any better than a typical smartphone user understands what’s going on inside the device.”

Good analogy. Now the difference between somebody physics minded and someone who is not, is that the former wants to understand. Under-stand, stand-under. 

There are two problems. One is that quantum mechanics, as it is enshrined in textbooks, seems to require separate rules for how quantum objects behave when we’re not looking at them, and how they behave when they are being observed. When we’re not looking, they exist in “superpositions” of different possibilities, such as being at any one of various locations in space. But when we look, they suddenly snap into just a single location, and that’s where we see them. We can’t predict exactly what that location will be; the best we can do is calculate the probability of different outcomes.”

The reason for behaving differently when looked at, is that looking at is itself what I call a QUANTUM INTERACTION. The observation used to be called “Wave Packet Collapse”, then, in an effort to tone down controversy, got to be less ominously named”The Measurement Problem”. 

My own SPQR theory deals with the brutal switch over from linear waves to particle, by spreading out a Linear Real Wave (LRW), the GUIDING linear part of the DELOCALIZED particle, all over the “phase space”. LRW is proportional to the usual Quantum Wave (QW)… But LRW reacts nonlinearly to poking by other QWs, and then contracts at a speed greater than 10^23 times the speed of light

The immense speed gives the impression of being in several places at the same time. 

The discovery of the Double Slit (above) by Polymath MD Young impacted physics hard: Laplace left the particle theory, thus removing his BH prediction…[2]. After that, light was viewed as wave  Aragot’s attempt to deny waves by predicting a spot, which was indeed observed![3] Light being E-M waves (Maxwell), “explained” interference… until Einstein claimed the existence of “Lichtquanten), a rebirth of Newton’s light corpuscule (as used by Laplace). Einstein insisted the photon was localized in space. SQPR, instead says the photon is linearly extended with “most” of it nonlinearly concentrated, but guided by the linear part, thanks to the nonlinear behavior the “linear” part is ready to exhibit (for those who shake their heads here: this is how oceanic waves, which are nearly linear behave… the slight nonlinearity make some wave go faster than others, generating rogue waves…

Sean Carroll, poking at Textbook Quantum Mechanics  (TQM) finds that:

The whole thing is preposterous. Why are observations special? What counts as an “observation,” anyway? When exactly does it happen? Does it need to be performed by a person? Is consciousness somehow involved in the basic rules of reality? Together these questions are known as the “measurement problem” of quantum theory.

The other problem is that we don’t agree on what it is that quantum theory actually describes, even when we’re not performing measurements. We describe a quantum object such as an electron in terms of a “wave function,” which collects the superposition of all the possible measurement outcomes into a single mathematical object. When they’re not being observed, wave functions evolve according to a famous equation written down by Erwin Schrödinger.

But what is the wave function? Is it a complete and comprehensive representation of the world? Or do we need additional physical quantities to fully capture reality, as Albert Einstein and others suspected? Or does the wave function have no direct connection with reality at all, merely characterizing our personal ignorance about what we will eventually measure in our experiments?

Until physicists definitively answer these questions, they can’t really be said to understand quantum mechanics — thus Feynman’s lament. Which is bad, because quantum mechanics is the most fundamental theory we have, sitting squarely at the center of every serious attempt to formulate deep laws of nature. If nobody understands quantum mechanics, nobody understands the universe.

Then Sean hits the nail:

“You would naturally think, then, that understanding quantum mechanics would be the absolute highest priority among physicists worldwide. Investigating the foundations of quantum theory should be a glamour specialty within the field, attracting the brightest minds, highest salaries and most prestigious prizes. Physicists, you might imagine, would stop at nothing until they truly understood quantum mechanics.

The reality is exactly backward. Few modern physics departments have researchers working to understand the foundations of quantum theory. On the contrary, students who demonstrate an interest in the topic are gently but firmly — maybe not so gently — steered away, sometimes with an admonishment to “Shut up and calculate!” Professors who become interested might see their grant money drying up, as their colleagues bemoan that they have lost interest in serious work.

This has been the case since the 1930s, when physicists collectively decided that what mattered was not understanding quantum mechanics itself; what mattered was using a set of ad hoc quantum rules to construct models of particles and materials. The former enterprise came to be thought of as vaguely philosophical and disreputable. One is reminded of Aesop’s fox, who decided that the grapes he couldn’t reach were probably sour, and he didn’t want them anyway. Physicists brought up in the modern system will look into your eyes and explain with all sincerity that they’re not really interested in understanding how nature really works; they just want to successfully predict the outcomes of experiments.”

How did such a mood grow among physicists? One thing led to another. The psychogenetics of Quantum Mechanics are fascinating:

1)Extremely respected senior Prussian physicist Max Planck solves the two major problems in physics by proposing energy emission is quantized: E = hf (f frequency of radiation). 1900; the year before Jules Henri Poincaré started to teach at La Sorbonne E = mcc from looking in detail at electrodynamics.

This is already fascinating: Jules Henri Poincaré and Max Planck devise new mechanics, Relativity (Jules Henri Poincaré) and Quantum Mechanics (Planck) by looking at translating light (Jules Henri Poincaré and light in a Black Box (Planck).

2) Opportunistically, in typical Einstein style, extending Planck’s supposition, Einstein supposes that light travels as a quanta (“Lichtquanten”), and thus energy gets absorbed in packets, explaining the photoelectric effect (discovered by some Frenchman 80 years prior; documented in detail by Hertz who promptly died). His sponsor Planck the Prussian hates Einstein for the photoelectric effect, but then Einstein gets the Nobel for it in 1921.

3) Bohr proposes a half baked atom theory (1913)… 

4)…spectacularly explained by De Broglie in 1924, with the invention of QUANTUM WAVES.  Bohr and company could only dislike the irruption of this medievalist, a hyper wealthy Prince, with the famous experimental physicist brother… Einstein, enthusiastic, himself confers the (recommendation for) De Broglie’s thesis.

5) A group of germanoid (Danish, lots of Germans, Austrian) physicists around Bohr then captures all of QM genesis… But they are careful to hide the connection with De Broglie: most of their work is an obvious consequence of the French Prince’s work…

As Sean Carroll puts it:

This attitude [not really interested in understanding how nature really works]can be traced to the dawn of modern quantum theory. In the 1920s there was a series of famous debates between Einstein and Niels Bohr, one of the founders of quantum theory. Einstein argued that contemporary versions of quantum theory didn’t rise to the level of a complete physical theory, and that we should try to dig more deeply. But Bohr felt otherwise, insisting that everything was in fine shape. Much more academically collaborative and rhetorically persuasive than Einstein, Bohr scored a decisive victory, at least in the public-relations battle.

Roughly it was a battle between Einstein, well-to do archetypal international Jew, allied to the cosmopolitan, immensely cultured and fortunate, sophisticated French Prince, against a Germanic horde not inclined to subtlety (mostly made of crypto Jews and Nazis, or Nazi sympathizers, not a crowd too inclined to dig deep in its own motivations…).

Sean:

“Not everyone was happy that Bohr’s view prevailed, but these people typically found themselves shunned by or estranged from the field. In the 1950s the physicist David Bohm, egged on by Einstein, proposed an ingenious way of augmenting traditional quantum theory in order to solve the measurement problem. Werner Heisenberg, one of the pioneers of quantum mechanics, responded by labeling the theory “a superfluous ideological superstructure,” and Bohm’s former mentor Robert Oppenheimer huffed, “If we cannot disprove Bohm, then we must agree to ignore him.”

Around the same time, a graduate student named Hugh Everett invented the “many-worlds” theory, another attempt to solve the measurement problem, only to be ridiculed by Bohr’s defenders. Everett didn’t even try to stay in academia, turning to defense analysis after he graduated.”

As I am hinting above, tribal strife (French against German; Jew against Nazi) was one of the main reason the search for the deepest knowledge became irrelevant to the elaboration of present day physics. Unfortunately, Sean Carroll just fed it some more, just above: the “Bohm” theory was actually invented by Louis De Broglie (Nobel, 1/1, 1927). But De Broglie is French, Bohm US born, so much better, never mind that Bohm was thrown out of the USA during McCarthyism…

***

Sean:

“A more recent solution to the measurement problem, proposed by the physicists Giancarlo Ghirardi, Alberto Rimini and Tulio Weber, is unknown to most physicists.”

As Wikipedia puts it: GRW differs from other collapse theories by proposing that wave function collapse happens spontaneously. GRW is an attempt to avoid the measurement problem in quantum mechanics. It was first reported in 1985…. Yes, “first reported”, but, well, as far as I am concerned, I got and advertised the idea first (in Stanford, Berkeley). Today’s SQPR is much more sophisticated and deep than GRW (and thus can explain Dark Matter)

Sean:

These ideas are not simply woolly-headed “interpretations” of quantum mechanics. They are legitimately distinct physical theories, with potentially new experimental consequences. But they have been neglected by most scientists. For years, the leading journal in physics had an explicit policy that papers on the foundations of quantum mechanics were to be rejected out of hand.

Of course there are an infinite number of questions that scientists could choose to worry about, and one must prioritize somehow. Over the course of the 20th century, physicists decided that it was more important to put quantum mechanics to work than to understand how it works. And to be fair, part of their rationale was that it was hard to actually see a way forward. What were the experiments one could do that might illuminate the measurement problem?”

My own SQPR implies Dark Matter: that’s an enormous, super massive implication (not at all like the tiny, but crucial, postdiction of the Mercury precession by GR, and the prediction of light deviation by the Sun being double of what Newton got…).

Sean:

“The situation might be changing, albeit gradually. The current generation of philosophers of physics takes quantum mechanics very seriously, and they have done crucially important work in bringing conceptual clarity to the field. Empirically minded physicists have realized that the phenomenon of measurement can be directly probed by sufficiently subtle experiments.”

Applied French Physicist Michel Devoret, purchased by Yale, revealed the Copenhagen Interpretation is hogwash. See Absence of Presence Is Not Presence of Absence: QUANTUM JUMPS PREDICTED, Copenhagen Interpretation SHATTERED

Sean:

“And the advance of technology has brought questions about quantum computers and quantum information to the forefront of the field. Together, these trends might make it once again respectable to think about the foundations of quantum theory, as it briefly was in Einstein and Bohr’s day.

Meanwhile, it turns out that how reality works might actually matter. Our best attempts to understand fundamental physics have reached something of an impasse, stymied by a paucity of surprising new experimental results. Scientists discovered the Higgs boson in 2012, but that had been predicted in 1964. Gravitational waves were triumphantly observed in 2015, but they had been predicted a hundred years before. “

Well, Laplace predicted gravitational waves in the Eighteenth Century. Poincaré made them relativistic in 1905. Then of course they appear in GR, a spacetime wave theory. 

Sean:

“It’s hard to make progress when the data just keep confirming the theories we have, rather than pointing toward new ones.

The problem is that, despite the success of our current theories at fitting the data, they can’t be the final answer, because they are internally inconsistent. Gravity, in particular, doesn’t fit into the framework of quantum mechanics like our other theories do. It’s possible — maybe even perfectly reasonable — to imagine that our inability to understand quantum mechanics itself is standing in the way.

After almost a century of pretending that understanding quantum mechanics isn’t a crucial task for physicists, we need to take this challenge seriously.”

We humans are understanding machines. denying us understanding is denying us humanity. However, few places, and then rarely so, were devoted enough to understanding, to develop it, in spite of everything else… Which is, what it takes….

Patrice Ayme

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P/S: Sean Carroll (@seanmcarroll) is a theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology and the author of the forthcoming book “Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime,” from which this essay is adapted.”

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[1] I sent that General Relativity (GR) depends upon QM, to a well-known physicist, on her well-known site… She apparently didn’t publish it… Probably to present soon the idea as hers (she has a physics career, as a pigeon has a career eating crumbs)… If she didn’t do it already. My reasoning in a nutshell: Special Relativity (SR) can be deduced from Local Time. But Local Time (LT), the photon bouncing around, itself is the essence of QM. So GR, as its locally SR, depends upon QM, through LT. Nobody made these simple remarks, before yours truly… 

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[2] When 2 slit appeared, light looked like waves, so Laplace reasoning about Black Hole looked fishy, so he removed it from his book.

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[3] Aragot predicted destructive light interference behind a sphere. That was viewed as unlikely, implausible, and was bound to destroy the wave theory of light: light + light = dark? Impossible! However, that Aragot spot was observed… After that, waves ruled, until Einstein 1905…

5 Responses to “Understanding Quantum Mechanics: Why It Didn’t Happen Yet, And Why It Matters”

  1. Patrice Ayme Says:

    And the full story tells us a lot about militarization of 20th century civilization. The “Shut up and calculate” physics is just military mindset by another name: https://patriceayme.wordpress.com/2019/09/09/understanding-quantum-mechanics-why-it-didnt-happen-yet-and-why-it-matters/

    Like

  2. ianmillerblog Says:

    The fact that Bohr prevailed by having more friends in influential places is the simple reason why he prevailed. Associated with this is trying to understand needs deep thinking, while following a few rules is just handle-cranking. As a very few know, I have tried to argue that the rotating polariser experiment does NOT show what people think it does. Yes, the photons are entangled, if entangled means following the conservation law, but “wave function collapse” is NOT required, and the maths that assert it does violate the derivation of the principle that formulates Bell’s Inequality. I sent this to many journals, and almost all rejected it on the grounds “it was not of sufficient interest”. The fact that something taught (mindlessly) in all University physics classes could be wrong is not of interest? That explains half of the problem. They really do not want to be forced to try to understand. Finally, I got a rejection on the grounds: “This is wrong. The mathematics are trivial.” Note, no clue as to where the referee thought it was wrong.

    I published a paper over 30 years ago that provided what I believe were new relationships for atomic orbitals, which do not correspond to the excited states of hydrogen, but rather a mix of waves, and the mix requires a new quantum relationship when the chemical bond forms. Either that is right or wrong. If right, ALL the papers coming from a wide computation industry (that get the right answers, although they can use up to 50 arbitrary constants so they damn well should). Nobody takes any notice, following Oppenheimer’s advice about Bohm.

    One last point: in my latest blog, I comment on some latest work from the Bohr institute that raises serious doubts in my mind that gravitational waves have been detected.

    Like

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Yes, Bohr was very influential, had plenty of the right friends.
      OK, I will go read your site. I don’t see how there couldn’t be any gravitational waves. Laplace reasoning is so simple (I guess; I have not read it, hahaha, but the reasoning is clear… If one moves a source periodically in a finite propagation speed field theory, one gets waves…)

      Like

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