Quantum gravity physics based on facts, giving checkable predictions

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Plato and Bohr

Niels Bohr brainwashed a whole generation of physicists into believing that the problem had been solved... - Murray Gell-Mann, Nature of the Physical Universe, NY, 1979, p29.

The quotation above comes from Dr John Gribbin, and although I don't agree with some of the views in some of his books, there are many insights into these problems to be found in them.

Heisenberg was an influence on Bohr. Heisenberg was a Nazi who as a teenager fell in love with Plato's book Timaeus, which argued that the universe must be reduced to abstract math.

The crushing effects of hyperinflation, unemployment, and general discontent in Germany in the 1920s sets the background for the metaphysical view of modern physics. Historian Paul Forman in 1971 wrote a long and generally boring piece on this called Weimar Culture, Causality, and Quantum Theory, 1918-27: Adaptation by German Physicists and Mathematicians to a Hostile Intellectual Environment.

It was published in Historical Studies in Physical Sciences, v3, pp 1-115. Bohr had been put under pressure by Rutherford around 1916, when Rutherford initially dismissed Bohr's atomic theory as being incompatible with Maxwell's equations. Bohr tried to defend himself by inventing laws and principles of the imagination which basically said that apparent contradictions do not need to be resolved. In plain English: if the boots fit, wear them.

However, because Bohr did not write in plain English, but in double Mongolian, physicists sort of thought he was writing a religious tract, and that they had to take it as their religious confession of faith. Bohr did have some integrity at the beginning, but as he battled with Einstein over the question of causality (does God play dice?), he degenerated gradually, becoming entrenched.

Heisenberg went from strength to strength. After Hitler came to power in 1933, a Jewish mathematician was thrown out of Heisenberg's university department. Heisenberg was invited to resign in protest, but refused. Fair enough, perhaps. But then Hitler's regime rewarded Heisenberg by making him head of nuclear research!

In 1939, when Heisenberg visited America, physicists pleaded with him not to return to Nazi Germany, but he refused. He went back there, trying to build a 20 kt warhead (based on U233 made by irradiating thorium with neutrons in a nuclear reactor) for the V2 missile. If he had succeeded, I would not be writing this today.

Anyway, he was treated softly by Britain when interned at Farm Hall in 1945, where his reactions to Hiroshima and Nagasaki (secretly tape recorded) are consistent with Bohr's recently recently papers, showing Heisenberg to have been genuinely trying to make a bomb for Hitler. Bohr was fortunately anti-fascist, despite all his other failures. Just as well, as Bohr was the man who worked out by a brilliant piece of reasoning from scant evidence that U235 rather than common U238 is capable of undergoing fission for low neutron energies...

The early papers discrediting/casting doubt upon the Bohr-Heisenberg's horses*** interpretation of quantum mechanics are: Erwin Schroedinger's cat paradox, Naturwissenshaften, v23, p812, and Albert Einstein, B. Podolsky, and N. Rosen, 'Can Quantum Mechanical Description of Physical Reality be Considered Complete?', Physical Review, v47, 1935, p777.

A year later, Einstein wrote another paper for Physical Review and the editor gave him 'the treatment' so Einstein withdrew the paper, argued with the editor bitterly, and never went there again (apart from a letter of rebuttal).


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