Time and the Quantum World

"Subtle is the Lord, but not malicious."189 These oft-quoted words of Einstein give an impression of Einstein's passionate rejection of quantum theory. He would have preferred being a cobbler or a casino employee rather than a physicist, if he were forced to give up the strict requirement of causality and accept the notion "that an electron exposed to radiation should choose of its own free will, not only its moment to jump off, but also its direction."190 For the person who had provided important impulses for the development of quantum theory, for instance with his 1905 hypothesis of light quanta, quantum mechanics certainly appeared to be "quite awe-

inspiring"; it seemed to him "however, not the real thing": "The theory says a lot, but does not really bring us closer to the secret of the 'old one.' I, at any rate, am convinced that He is not playing at dice."191

Above all, the epistemological interpretation that Werner Heisenberg (1901-1976) and Niels Bohr (1885-1962)192 gave to quantum theory between 1925 and 1927 was decisive for Einstein's lifelong aversion to quantum mechanics.193 The criticism that initially sounded so irreconcilable, however, was mitigated by the discussions on the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen Experiment of 1934, so that, in 1940, Einstein declared that the progress of the century consists of two theories that are basically independent of each other, namely, the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. In his opinion, the two theories do not actually directly contradict each other, but they also do not appear to be suitable for merging into a uniform theory.194 He sees the fundamental difference between quantum theory and all previous theories in the fact that, instead of a model description of actual events in time and space being given, probability distributions are now being provided for the dependency of possible measurements upon time. And this was not done on the basis of imaginative flights of thought, but rather due to the compelling power of empirical facts.

And Heisenberg has convincingly shown, from an empirical point of view, any decision as to a rigorously deterministic structure of nature is definitely ruled out, because of the atomistic structure of our experimental apparatus. Thus it is probably out of the question that any future knowledge can compel physics again to relinquish our present statistical theoretical foundation in favor of a deterministic one which would deal directly with physical reality . . . Some physicists, among them myself, can not believe that we must abandon, actually and forever, the idea of direct representation of physical reality in space and time; or that we must accept the view that events in nature are analogous to a game of chance.195

Accordingly, Einstein considered quantum physics to be a logical and consistent, though incomplete, description of a still unknown underlying theory, which would finally achieve an objective description of reality.196 This deep skepticism of Einstein indicates the extent to which quantum physics challenged the established line of thinking that had been shaped to look for deterministic structures of causality.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment