Reality's Prism: Quantum Physics Demystified
The first popular science book about Many-Interacting Worlds and MIWOI. Now available at Amazon |
Book Sample 1 - The Copenhagen Interpretation | |
History | As a promotional sample, this is a topic from Reality's Prism Part I that reviews the history of quantum phsyics. |
The Copenhagen Interpretation |
An understanding of quantum mechanics called the Copenhagen interpretation was put forth during the 1920s largely by physicists Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg. The interpretation provided a foundation for much quantum theory and terminology that remains in use today.
The interpretation was discussed at great length during the Fifth Solvay International Conference held in Brussels, Belgium during 1927. This Fifth conference is notable because of the 29 scientists attending, 17 either already held or would be awarded Nobel Prizes. Even for such great thinkers, there was much to digest in the then-new quantum interpretation which is why notable thought experiments such as Schrödinger's Cat and the EPR Paradox did not come to prominence until years later. Though its name may suggest otherwise, the Copenhagen interpretation as given by Bohr and Heisenberg strictly follows a mathematical approach in which the wave function and its probabilities are central, i.e. it is more math than interpretation. It says little about "realism," that is, how those elements reveal the actual structure of the universe. Subsequently, others have sought to fill this interpretation vacuum, with varying degrees of success and acceptance by physicists. Of the wave function, and its probabilities, the Copenhagen interpretation gives supreme importance to measurement. When a coin flip observer measures (sees) the result is, say, heads, the wave function is said to collapse to a known state. Actually, and this is an important point for later, instead of "collapse" Heisenberg used the word "reduce." Despite some 300 years of close study prior to 1900, light had stubbornly defied consistent categorization. Then came the photoelectric effect and Einstein's 1905 proposal that light consists of a stream of discrete wave packets, quantized packets of certain amounts of energy. Then after just 20 more years, the arrival of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics revolutionized the way we think of the universe, with its view that not just light but everything has both wave and particle natures. Such ubiquity meant wave-particle duality is a key property of the universe, as well as our perception of it. If only there were an experiment that at the flip of a switch could demonstrate either wave or particle nature and help resolve this long-standing conundrum. It turns out there is. |