TRANSLATE THIS ARTICLE
Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Recommended Readings
is a tenured Professor of Philosophy at Mt. San Antonio College, where she has been teaching since 1991. She received her Ph.D. and M.A. in Religious Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Dr. Diem earned her B.A. in Psychology from the University of California, San Diego, where she conducted original research in neuroscience on visual perception on behalf of V.S. Ramachandran, the world famous neurologist and cognitive scientist. Professor Diem has published several scholarly books and articles, including The Gnostic Mystery
and When Gods Decay
. She is married to Dr. David Lane, with whom she has two children, Shaun-Michael and Kelly-Joseph. Republished with permission. See also her Darwins DNA: A Brief Introduction to Evolutionary Philosophy
, published on Integral World.
On Quantum Theory
Spooky Physics, Einstein vs. Bohr, Recommended Readings
While researching the material for this monograph, Spooky Physics, I read several very helpful books in the field of quantum theory. These works including biographies of Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Erwin Schrodinger, and Max Born, as well as books on the topic of quantum physics itself. The following offers an annotated biography of just a few of my sources:
The End of the Certain World by Nancy Greenspan
This biography of the life and times of Max Born was such a pleasure to read that I found myself a bit saddened upon its closure. It left me wanting to read even more on the life of this great physicist. Born, who inspired the world with his plea for ethical standards in science and his call to break through some of the great mysteries of the universe, was a hero of sorts. He was a man of character, tolerance and brilliance. His deep friendships with Einstein and Bohr and other renowned scientists showed the human connections he made while developing deep insight into the world of the atom.
While nurturing tight bonds with other scientists, Born's relationship with his wife, Heidi, was quite unusual. He tolerated her dalliances, especially with her eight year lover, Herglotz. Despite Heidi's romantic adventures, Born loved her and wanted to maintain a married life with her. Heidi is not necessarily an unlikable character herself. She is strong willed and insightful, and in times when Max needed direction she was there. Heidi's brief interest in Vedanta philosophy, developed while living for a stint in India, was replaced with her calling to Quaker social ideals. She remained his wife until Max's death in 1970. And when she dies two years after her husband, she was buried next to him.
It was not until the latter years of Born's life that he received the Nobel Prize in physics. For many years Max felt slighted for not receiving the prestigious award when others in his field did. Even many of the students he worked with, including Heisenberg and Pauli, were honored. But finally towards the end of his life this special award came his way. A knock on the door by a Swedish journalist announcing the news was the climax of his life. Walking down the isle, although nearly tripping in front of the king of Sweden, to receive this honor was the affirmation he so long for. On his gravesite in Gottingen, Germany reads his groundbreaking equation in quantum mechanics: pq-qp = h/2pii.
While Born's contribution to physics is undeniable, he himself questioned his own status in the field. When Oppenheimer omitted him when listing the great theoretical physicists of his time, Born, who once taught Oppenheimer, wrote him a letter expressing his hurt and anger. Oppenheimer's response was that he simplified the list to reduce confusion but he clearly acknowledged Born's work as the very foundation of quantum theory.
Max Born was a natural humanitarian and pacifist in similar vein with Einstein. When other scientists wanted to use their research skills for weapons research Max argued for strict ethical guidelines in science. “Love,” he said, “is a power just a strong as the atom.” Having to confront the Nazi world as a German Jew, though a non-religious one, was a life altering experience. Many of Max's friends and relatives were killed by the Third Reich. The stress of life during WWII took its toll on both Max and Heidi. Max suffered from bouts of illness, including severe asthma, and Heidi, who suffered from depression and exhaustion, lived months at a time in retreats
The big debate between Einstein and Bohr about the nature of quantum mechanics was touched upon many times in this reading and was indeed the focus of my attention. Born, while extremely respectful to Einstein, argued against Einstein's position of a deterministic world, going as far as to call him “wrong.” Bohr's uncertain world of quantum mechanics, though counterintuitive, he thought was an accurate understanding of nature. The “end of the certain world” is an appropriate title to grasp Born's position.
I found it interesting that the author garnered her research with the help of Olivia Newton-John, the granddaughter of Max Born. Altogether this was a remarkable read.
Niels Bohr's Times, in Physics, Philosophy, and Polity by Abraham Paris
The author Abraham Paris, who was good friends with Bohr, offers a brilliant biography of this scientific genius and philosopher. Bohr (died 1962 at 77 years old of heart failure) is credited with founding quantum theory. His great insight was that quantum theory violated the classic concepts of physics held sacred. Bohr's correspondence principle was his attempt to reconcile the new and old physics together. Taking Paris' lead, let us look at Bohr's politics, philosophy and, most importantly, contribution to physics.
Bohr sought an open dialogue between the West and USSR so as to prevent what everyone thought was an inevitable cold war. While his dream of openness did not come to fruition, his gallant effort in pursuit of it deserves recognition. Meeting with both Churchhill and Roosevelt to promote an open world and writing several letters to the United Nations in the 1950s on the topic resulted it little change toward post- war peace. During WWII, Bohr played a role, though minor, in the weapons program. The fear back then was that the Germans were in the race to develop atomic weapons of mass destruction. Bohr later argued that new atomic weapons could help improve international relationships as each country, armed with devastating weaponry, would take each other very seriously. Bohr wanted Russia to be consulted by Western leaders about nuclear arms in order to prevent a post-war cold war. His noble efforts went unheeded.
During WWII, Bohr helped aid refugees. He himself was under the threat of arrest by the German military police in Copenhagen and so took refuge in England. In Denmark Bohr was considered a national hero for his philanthropy and genius. He also founded the world's leading center for theoretical physics in Copenhagen and this brought world recognition to the city and country.
Apart from science Bohr held many other interests. He loved art and was well read in Shakespeare and in literature classics. Philosophy was certainly among his fortes.
Abraham Paris placed Bohr as one of the most notable “twentieth century philosophers.” His complementarity concept applied not just to physics but to a variety of areas, including philosophy, psychology, biology and anthropology. The complementarity idea refers to “two aspects of a description that are mutually exclusive yet both necessary for a full understanding of what is to be described.” This sort of reminds me of F. Scott Fitzgerald who said that the sign of an intelligent mind is the ability to hold two totally contradictory ideas at the same time and still function. While Bohr's initial concept applied to physics, specifically the idea that quanta is both wave and particle, he contended that we should take this idea of complementarity and apply it to other fields of study. Paris comments that for him the complementary way of thinking was “liberating.” Interestingly, Einstein, who showed great love for Bohr, never came around to accept Bohr's way of thinking here. Einstein, instead, argued that when we look deeper we will one day see that phenomena existed independently of observation as supported by classical physics.
Moreover, in terms of philosophy, Bohr read Kierkegaard's works not just for philosophical insights (note: though baptized in the Lutheran Church, Bohr was a non religious man; he paralleled Einstein who was a non-religious figure as well), but also in admiration of his style of writing. Bohr's own philosophy seemed to parallel Kant's, specifically Kant's view that causality was not derived from experience but was an a priori judgment.
Apparently Bohr even demonstrated some interest in Eastern philosophy when he chose the Chinese symbol Yin-Yang as his emblem on his coat of arms when knighted in Denmark. This fit with his complementarity concept that opposites are indeed complementary.
Besides being considered the grandfather of nuclear medicine, Bohr is most known for being one of the key founders of quantum theory of matter. The indeterminism of quantum mechanics did not fit with the causal rules of classic physics. This Bohr full heartedly embraced along with the “epistemological lessons” it taught us, while Einstein argued that a correct understanding of quantum mechanics that reconciled old physics with the new was yet to be discovered.
Paris explains that quantum theory can be broken up into two time periods: 1900 to 1925 referred to as old quantum theory in which the science of quantum theory was established and analogies were used to understand atomic orbits; the second phase began after 1925 with the onset of quantum mechanics. Heisenberg, Born, Schrodinger, as well as Bohr, etc., mark this latter phase. Bohr's significant contributions to quantum mechanics began in 1927. While Heisenberg discovered the uncertainty principle around this time, Bohr developed the complementarity principle. This principle offers us not only a scientific understanding of wave-particle duality but also a deep philosophical insight into life.
While Einstein eventually accepted quantum mechanics, he continued to argue, unlike Bohr, that a deeper theory will one day explain what appeared to be a dichotomy between classic physics and quantum physics. Bohr's position did not waver, despite hours of intellectual debate between Einstein and Bohr. Bohr contended that no deeper theory need explain the difference between physics of the very small (quantum) and Newtonian physics. For some reason, quipped Bohr, the laws of physics break down when we went the weird world of quantum mechanics.
Thus began the famous debate between Einstein and Bohr which still has not officially been resolved. And it is not simply a physics debate but indeed a profound philosophical one as well.
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
This book begins with the origins of the universe 13.7 billion years ago and then continues throughout to cover many of the major scientific advances and historical events that have made the earth that we live into today. The understanding of the atom, the discovery of the DNA structure, the extraordinary advancements we have made in geology, astronomy, anthropology are all the subject of this amazing book. If one wishes to learn a variety of scientific ideas in one read this is it. How does one cover a short history of nearly everything? Well, while this is a very difficult task, Bryson certain succeeds in familiarizing the reader with the life of Newton, Darwin, Einstein, Crick, etc., and the great advancements they each made.
Certain sections of this book caught my attention more than others. I will focus on what captured my imagination, specifically, concentrating on the sense of wonder that science undoubtedly invokes.
The awesomeness of our universe is a central point in the book. It is fascinating to note that at least 90% of the universe is dark matter, that which we cannot even see, and thus empty space is really not empty at all. Moreover, strangely the universe is expanding out at an accelerated rate. Scientists can actually prove that the universe is expanding by looking at what is called as “the red shift.” As light moves away from us we see the red end of the light spectrum and blue as light approaches us. Through the telescope we witness red.
The Big Bang is a topic of great importance in this book. Bryson points out that one percent of the static on the TV is from the Big Bang, a moment of singularity. Perhaps we are in an eternal cycle of collapsing and expanding universes and that ours is just one of many larger universes. Physicists argue that there may be not just one universe but an infinite number of them. And ours might have no end as it folds back upon itself like a bubble (“boundless but finite”).
Proxima Centauri is our nearest star and is part of a three star cluster called the Alpha Centauri. This nearest star is 100 million times farther than the moon and 4.3 light years away or 25,000 years by spacecraft. The next star would be Sirius, another 4.6 light years away. Bryson really tries to get the reader to appreciate how enormous outer space is with the “average distance between stars is 20 million million miles.”
Statistically there are most likely other life forms out there but it is unrealistic, even the great distances, that we have encountered them. There are at least 100 to 400 billion stars in our Milky Way Galaxy and at least 140 billion galaxies out there. “If galaxies were frozen peas there would be enough to fill a large auditorium,” states Bryson. Interestingly, he says that a conservative number puts advanced civilizations in the Milky Way in the millions. Sagan calculated that the number of possible planets in the universe is “10 billion trillion” and that if you were thrown at random in the universe the chances that you would be next to one is “one is a billion trillion trillion.” There is just so much unimaginable space out there.
And thank goodness for the vastness of space given that a Supernova, a star that collapses and then explodes, if nearby would destroy any life on our planet. It was about 4.5 billion years ago an object the size of Mars hit earth and the debris that came from the earth formed within a year into the moon we have today. And how fortunate we are to have this moon, for the moon's gravitational pull keeps the earth stably spinning and not wobbling off. Bryson continues to show amazing it is that we have life on this planet. If we were just 5% nearer to the sun or 15% farther from the sun life here could not exist.
Bryson also spends a great deal of effort exploring how fascinating the human being is! If one event was a bit off in the 3.8 billion years of earth's history you would not be here. One nanosecond different and there is no you. Amazing! Humans live on average 650,000 hours, a fleeting amount of time in the cosmic scheme of things. Also, most species only lasts 4 million years and 99.99 percent of all species are now extinct. What a privilege that we are here as we are now.
“Why is our fossil record so thin?” Bryson queries. Well, the chances of being fossilized are very rare. Bryson points out that “only one bone in a billion” become fossils. If this be the case then out of all of the Americans today (270-300 million) with 206 bones each only 50 bones will fossilize (1/4 of a skeleton). And then consider that we will have to find these 50 hidden fossils.
At the cellular level humans are all “youngsters.” Most cells live no more than a month, and for cells that stay with you like brain cells (while you have 100 billion of them, you lose 500 of them every hour) individual components of them are also renewed monthly. Amazingly, “there isn't a single bit of us that was part of us nine years ago.” Talk about reinventing ourselves.
One interesting question that Bryson tackles is: what is the genetic difference between humans? Amazingly, we are 99.9 % genetically the same. Four simple letters make all the diverse forms of life we see today. One time in a million there is a SNIP, a mutation. The .1% difference is due to our snips. We don't see huge mutations all around us since 97% of our DNA is junk DNA and many snips occur there. Junk DNA is still around in our code since they are good as getting copied but have no detectable consequence.
We have the same number of genes as grass (about 30,000). Sixty percent of our DNA matches that of a fruit fly. What this tells us, explains the author, is that all of life is one. Think of the awesome reality of this. Four little letters make up the ingredients for all life forms on this planet. We are all intimately connected at the deepest levels.
In this book, the author investigates our most recent ancestors. Homo erectus, it appears, is an important dividing line. Before Homo erectus the Homo species looked apelike and after looked humanlike. Early modern humans appeared to move out of Africa about 100,000 years ago. Neanderthals existed for about 100,000 years as well but died out about 35,000 years ago. It seems that there is no genetic connection between mitochondrial DNA of modern humans and Neanderthals. It is still a mystery why they died out. Perhaps we competed for the same resources, Bryson ponders. Humans have existed for only .0001% of Earth's history and in celebration, Bryson exclaims, what an “achievement” it is that we are here.
The section on physics is called a NEW AGE DAWNS. Here one learns about the beginning of the quantum age. Energy, according to Planck, can come in individual packets called quanta. It is really “liberated matter” as Einstein's E = MC2 indicates. Moreover, space and time are now understood not to be absolute but relative to the one observing. The faster you go the slower time goes. Even stranger, time is part of space and is known as the dimension spacetime. Gravity can bend spacetime and warp it. Mass of any kind alters the 'fabric of the cosmos.” The universe can be described as the “ultimate sagging mattress.” Gravity now gets re-thought. Instead of a force it is “the byproduct of the warping of spacetime.” As one physicists said, “What moves the planets and stars is the distortion of space and time.”
While the Greeks first proposed atoms, it was Einstein who provided solid evidence for their existence with his 1905 paper on Brownian motion. Atoms are composed of three sections: electrons, protons and neutrons (the latter two are in the nucleus). Interestingly, “if the atom were expanded to the size of a cathedral, the nucleus” (the atom's mass; incredibly dense but only one millionth of a billionth of the total atom) “would be about the size of a fly but many thousands of times heavier than the cathedral.” Most of the atom is empty space and “solidity” is really an illusion. Bryson continues: “When you sit in a chair, you are not actually sitting there, but levitating about it at a height of one angstrom (a hundred millionth of a centimeter); your electrons and its electrons implacably opposed to any closer intimacy.”
The atoms that make you up are from the original stardust of the universe. Bryson points out that they have been “part of millions of organisms on the way to becoming you.” Indeed, our atoms are recycled at death. At least one billion of our own atoms came from Shakespeare and from Buddha and from all the other historical greats. It takes decades for the atoms to be “redistributed”. But they do go on, indefinitely, and into any variety of forms. Thus, we are reincarnated in a way.
In the world of the very small the same laws that govern the macro world do not apply. The idea of quantum leaps (an electron could leap from one place to another without visiting the space between) won Bohr the Nobel Prize in 1922. Strangely, the electron, showing a dual nature, sometimes acted like a wave and sometimes like a particle. Heisenberg captured this with the Uncertainty Principle. When observing an electron we can know either the position of an electron or its momentum or pathway but not both. We cannot know or predict where an electron will be but only make a probabilistic assumption. The quantum world even gets stranger with Wolfgang Pauli's Exclusion Principle. Atomic particles can have pairs and when separated they can know what each other are doing. A sister particle will spin to match its twin at the same rate but opposite direction, even if trillions of miles away. Einstein referred to this as “spooking action at a distance,” and was bothered that something could outrace the speed of light. Einstein, while contributing a great deal to this field, also had a problem with the notion that quantum world is one of indeterminacy. “God does not play dice,” he asserted. Einstein hoped to discover a theory (the Grand Unified Theory) to explain both the world of the very small and the very large. Having two sets of laws in the universe did not make sense to him.
Superstring Theory was also mentioned in this text. At the level of the smallest of the small what was thought of as particles (quarks, leptons) are now understood as vibrating strands or strings of energy that “oscillate in 11 dimensions.” Throughout this work Bryson hoped to titillate our imagination and show how science reveals a world of mystery and awesomeness and there is no doubt that he succeeds in this attempt. Does he explain everything? Well, “nearly everything.” What a pleasure to read!
Challenging Nature by Lee M. Silver
Lee Silver makes an interesting case that nature is raw, cruel and what the author calls a “nasty mother.” An example of the harshness of nature occurred 240 million years ago when almost 95% of all species were wiped out. There is no loving Mother Nature making sure everything works in perfect harmony. It just does not care.
Humanity, on the other hand, does care. So why not pursue techniques, as offered by biotechnology (such as stem cell research), to lessen the blows Nature gives. Eastern cultures tend to fit with this way of thinking more than Western traditions. In the West, there generally is the idea that we are “playing god” when we interfere with Mother Nature. But in the East, where there is no “master plan on the universe,” such play with nature is viewed as acceptable. Silver petitions the West to reconsider its stance and to embrace biotechnology and all its benefits. In other words, we should “challenge nature” by utilizing such technology to create a brighter future for all.
Science has so much to offer us. Certainly, we are not at the “end of science” as John Horgan has argued. Instead, science is an ever evolving and enlightening disciple with numerous insights and technologies yet to be had. At the very least it has allowed us to “extricate ourselves from the grip of natural selection.”
In the book a section called “Spirits” investigates just how deep and widespread religious beliefs are in the West. There are at least 10,000 different religions worldwide and within Christianity there are about 34,000 Christian denominations. In America 90 plus percent believe in God and about 50% support creationism. Fundamentalism is evidently on the rise. Unfortunately, science is feared by many since their religions offer a contrarian view.
A scientific understanding of the world can be traced back to Aristotle and Democritus with their materialist perspectives. Physicalism, says Silver, is actually the more correct term than materialism since immaterial, massless particles (e.g., photons) needs to be included.
One of my favorite ideas in the book was Silver's explanation how evolution and quantum physics relate. Evolution is driven by random mutations. But how do mutations occur? Most mutations, he explains, are caused by “a high energy cosmic ray (quantum particles) that knocks a single atom of the DNA molecule out of place.” This was indeed a brilliant connection between two prominent fields in modern day science. It reminds me of Edward O. Wilson's consilience theory where one field such as physics directly interconnects with another such as biology.
Silver then proceeds to illustrate chaos theory, that a small, seemingly unrelated event can have an enormous effect on the global whole in unimaginable ways. More specifically, an “unpredictable, random quantum event” that results in a mutation can change the course of history. For instance, the development of hemophilia in the blood line of Queen Victoria eventually led to the Bolshevik revolution and the formation of the USSR.
This “butterfly effect,” as it is sometimes called, peels away at the concept of freewill. Everything is interconnected at the deepest levels (again, consilience theory) and so the idea of one freely choosing one's actions and outcome is very suspect. Couple this with the understanding that at the neuron level there are trillions of neurons in the brain and whether one fires or not makes all the difference in the world on the whole brain. Is there a freely thinking individual controlling that one neuron firing? Certainly not, the evidence indicates. Epiphenomenalism, not Cartesian dualism, is the popular position in philosophy today. The idea that the inner self is an illusion is supported by vast evidence in neurobiology. Francis Crick's Astonishing Hypothesis highlights in depth the evidence.
If neurobiology can explain how we think and act can it also explain why is spirituality so ingrained in our consciousness? Yes. The DRD4 gene and the neurotransmitter dopamine (the former processes the latter) can determine one's religiosity. How can the DRD4 gene account for a religious mind? The more active form of the gene the more religious and the least active form the more rational and nonreligious. And increased levels of dopamine also results in a more religious way of thinking. In a study when skeptics were given higher levels of dopamine they leaned toward spirituality. Schizophrenics tend to have 500% more DRD4 than others. Thus, Silver argues that the DRD4 gene must have appeared on the scene as a genetic mutation 30,000 to 50,000 years ago when the religious mind arose in human culture. Perhaps Karl Marx was wrong when he suggested that religion would naturally go away in a just society. Instead, religion could be an innate evolutionary mutation encoded within our DNA but at varying levels. The power of genes keeps religion in play.
One question remains: if the origins of religions can be described as a genetic mutation in the course of human history then why was this mutation naturally selected in the first place? Silver suggests spirituality arose out of an awareness and fear of death. Concepts of life after death relieved anxiety and thus we lived a happier life. As this genetic propensity for spirituality continued, it became amplified with each generation and became the norm. The bottom line: religion was a product of evolution and genetically based. The author calls them “spirit genes.” And, interestingly, an overdose of them could result in psychosis. Prior to the 1990s scientists viewed religion as a byproduct of culture and not genes. But today the evidence shows otherwise.
Another very interesting section of the book was when the author compares humans with chimps. The 1% difference between us ends up being genes of little significance. We are almost genetic twins with the chimp. Can we produce offspring hybrids together, queries Silver? Most likely, but it would require that the human female carry the fetus and not the chimp (a chimp could not carry such a large offspring full term). Obviously, huge ethical considerations prevent this experiment.
Silver continues to explain that five millions years ago a common ancestor gave rise to humans, chimps and bonobos (pygmy chimps). And as recently as 30,000 years ago we competed with another homo species, Neanderthals, for resources. More remarkable, 18,000 years ago there is evidence of Homo erectus in Indonesia. Homo sapiens probably are responsible for both of their demise.
Why did we develop consciousness as we have it and other creatures like chimps did not? Most likely, Silver says, to “out-compete or kill off cousins who were not equally endowed.” How did this mutation occur? As Silver states, “a mutation can be induced by a single cosmic ray that breaks apart a chemical bond between two DNA atoms” and that occurs instantaneously and randomly. The mutation that allowed humans to develop language (and one can argue a form of sophisticated consciousness) is the gene FOXP2. This gene is lacking in the non-human world.
The genome of humans is a subject that receives a lot of attention in this text. Silver clarifies that each human cell contains two sets of about “30,000 genes stored in 46 chromosomes.” The genome is all the genetic information within each cell in the human body. While every cell has the same genome, a liver cell, for instance, has the liver portion active within it.
Overall, this was a fascinating book that I highly recommend. Silver's thesis that we need to “challenge nature” (primarily since nature certainly brutally challenges us) was very insightful and appreciated. More than anything, I was especially inspired about the connection between evolution and quantum mechanics and Wilson's consilience theory coming to life.
Schrodinger: Life and Thought by Walter Moore
Walter Moore details the life, science and philosophical bent of the famous physicist, Erwin Schrodinger. An only child, Schrodinger was recognized as brilliant even at the age of three. He was always top in his class and eventually became an amazing physicist and mathematician.
In terms of religion, Schrodinger fits in the atheist camp. He even lost a marriage proposal to his love, Felicie Krauss, not only due to his social status but his lack of religious affiliation. He was known as a freethinker who did not believe in god. But interestingly Schrodinger had a deep connection to Hinduism, Buddhism, and Eastern philosophy in general. Erwin studied numerous books on Eastern thought as well as the Hindu scriptures. He was enthralled with Vedanta thought and connected ideas of oneness and unity of mind with his research on quantum physics, specifically wave mechanics.
Schrodinger was almost as much of a philosopher as he was a scientist. While many Western philosophers fascinated him, including Nietzsche, Kant, etc., Schopenhauer was probably the most significant to him. This philosopher shared with Schrodinger an interest in Buddhism and Vedanta thought, which Schopenhauer called atheistic religions. He went on to describe pantheism as “a euphemism for atheism.” And Schopenhauer's view of the struggle for existence and the raw, brutal forces of nature seemed to Erwin to accurately depict reality. Spinoza, Einstein's favorite philosopher, was also of great interest to Erwin.
Schrodinger's marriage to Annie was an unusual one. While they remained married throughout their lives and he died with her at his side, he was not attracted to her physically. Both decided to live a more libertine life and engage in discreet affairs. He fathered a couple of daughters with two mistresses. Annie's lover was Hermann Weyl, a scientist and friend of Schrodinger.
What did Schrodinger contribute to physics? Like Einstein he dreamed of discovering a unified field theory but neither scientist were successful there. Instead, Schrodinger made his name in physics and won the Noble Prize for wave mechanics (a wave equation for particles). He was also noted for matrix mechanisms.
Einstein Defiant: Genius vs. Genius in the Quantum Revolution by Edmund B. Bolles
While offering a rough outline of Einstein's life, Edmund Bolles focuses on Einstein's resistance to the implications of quantum theory. Einstein did not think that the quantum world was fully understood and that a complete theory was yet to be had. He held faith in the idea that “the universe makes sense and runs on meaningful physical law.” The indeterminism of the quantum world did not sit well with Einstein and hence his famous quote, “God does not play dice with the universe.” Along the same thought, he expressed, “The Lord is…not malicious.” Underlying the indeterminacy of quantum physics, he argued, was an ordered and predictable reality one day to be discovered. The “secret of the Old One,” an objectively ordered and comprehensible world, was there to be found. Einstein eventually stood alone in this position; he remained defiant throughout his life. An inner voice, he said, told him that quantum mechanics is “not yet the real thing.”
The other genius to counter Einstein was Niels Bohr. Both physicists highly respected and admired each other but could not see eye to eye on this most pivotal research. Bohr, coming from the Copenhagen school of thought, embraced the radical insights of “lawless chaos” and “statistical randomness” quantum theory posed. Causality and meaningful law fell apart at the quantum level, quipped Bohr. The “quantum jump,” where a particle leaps from one location to another without following a predicable trajectory or without going through the space in between, was an example of this. Like Bohr, Max Born posited that underneath all the apparent natural laws as only “chaos.”
Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle accepted by Bohr and Born stated that one cannot know the position and momentum of a particle since they are “exclusive notions.” We are left with only probabilistic and statistical interpretations, according to Born. Thus, reality, as classical physics portrayed, now longer fit. Nonetheless, the “correspondence principle” allowed Bohr to use classical ideas to solve modern quantum problems. The bottom line: classical physics did not need to be rejected argued Bohr.
Both geniuses, Einstein and Bohr, also disagreed on the topic of light quanta. Einstein was amazed by the duality of light. His hv refers to the particle-wave duality of light quantum (later knows as photons or even wave packets). Bohr, along with some other physicists, resisted the hv theory but to some degree later came around when the evidence warranted it. “Wavy little chunks of hv” were eventually deemed to be real as the Compton Effect showed.
There is one more area that highlighted the difference between these two thinkers. Einstein loved his philosophers. Just like Erwin Schrodinger, one of his favorites was Schopenhauer. He would study them for entertainment. Bohr, on the other hand, referred to philosophy as “pure drivel.”
This book served an excellent read demonstrating how Bohr's “poetic attitude” and Einstein's “realistic” one set the stage for one of the most fascinating debates in the history of physics. And this debate still continues today capturing the attention of scientists around the world.