stephen_speicher Posted September 1, 2004 Report Share Posted September 1, 2004 Can you explain why you think light is accepted as a contradiction? My understanding is that the ideas that light is a particle and that it is a wave are just models that help describe light's behavior. Nobody literally believes that light is actually both a wave and a particle, rather it is something else that has some aspects of both. The apparent contradiction occurs because we don't really know what that something else is, so we are stuck using imperfect models until we know more. I would agree that the vast majority of today's physicists hold a sort of "model" view somewhat along the lines that you mention. But most people do not talk to today's physicists; rather they get their views from popularizers in the field. These popularizers tend to focus on some of the more overly-dramatic and bizarre interpetations, because these often sell well. So, for instance, they will read in Gribbin's wildly popular In Search of Schroedinger's Cat that "[t]he complete break with classical physics comes with the realization that not just photons and electrons but all 'particles' and 'waves' are in fact a mixture of wave and particle." It is not too difficult to discern how such a reader walks away with a sense of identity contradiction. And, in fact, part of the blame lies with the very founders of quantum theory, people such as Born, Bohr, and Heisenberg. Bohr's physics/philosophical foundations grew out of his Hegelian "attempts at "analysis and synthesis" which explictly replaced causality with his notion of "complementarity." But, Bohr's writings are well-known for the obscurantism of a Kant, and his "complementarity" gained an almost mystical sense around it. In John Archibald Wheeler's magnificent compendium of original papers, Quantum Theory and Measurement," the great Leon Rosenfeld remarks (in his commentary prefacing a paper by Bohr): "Complementarity is no system, no doctrine with ready-made precepts. There is no via regia to it; no formal definition of it can even be found in Bohr's writings ... Pragmatic Americans have dissected complementarity witht the scalpel of symbolic logic and undertaken to define this gentle art of the correct use of words without using any words at all.... [bohr] often evoked the thinkers of the past who had intuitively recognized dialectical aspects of existence and endeavored to give them poetical or philosophical expression." (It is interesting to note, as Mara Beller, science historian, points in a September 1998 paper in Physics Today, "The Sokal Hoax: At Whom Are We Laughing," Bohr's obscurities are so great that a reprint of a paper of his in the Wheeler compendium I mentioned above, is printed out of sequence and, though often referenced, hardly any notice is ever given to the page sequencing mistake.) The overall point here is, without going into great depth, that it is to the credit of today's physicists that they have extracted the mathematical and experimental value from the Copenhagen founders and have largely replaced the underlying Copenhagen philosophy with more practical concerns. Nevertheless, one sees in popularizations the Copenhagen ghost, often enhanced in a flowery manner with reference to some current philosophical darling who has no real grasp of the physics involved. It is not surprising that those who get their physics from today's popularizers, and those who with scholarship read the historical record of quantum development, arrive at much different views of the status of quantum physics then do many physicsts today who have adopted a more practical view. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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