Monday, March 14, 2011

Pauli to Born re Einstein

Wolfgang Pauli, the man who in Albert Einstein's opinion was "The New Einstein"

"I am in fact firmly convinced that the essentially statistical character of contemporary quantum theory is solely to be ascribed to the fact that this theory operates with an incomplete description of physical systems."

... Albert Einstein

"There is a widespread and erroneous conviction that for Einstein determinism was always the sacred principle. The quotability of his famous `God does not play dice' has not helped in this respect. Among those who had great difficulty seeing Einstein's position was Born. Pauli tried to help in a letter of 1954: 
'...I was unable to recognize Einstein whenever you talked about him in either your letter or your manuscript. It seemed to me as if you had erected some dummy Einstein for yourself, which you then knocked down with great pomp. In particular Einstein does not consider the concept of `determinism' to be as fundamental as it is frequently held to be (as he told me emphatically many times) ... he disputes that he uses as a criterion for the admissibility of a theory the question "Is it rigorously deterministic?"... he was not at all annoyed with you, but only said that you were a person who will not listen'... 
...These references to Born are not meant to diminish one of the towering figures of modern physics. They are meant to illustrate the difficulty of putting aside preconceptions and listening to what is actually being said. They are meant to encourage you, dear listener, to listen a little harder."

... John Stewart Bell



Composed with care by
Douglas L. Hemmick, Ph.D.
© 2001

14 comments:

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Steven,

Most curious, that is I’m left wondering if in referencing Dr. Hemmick is to mean that you are now listening a little harder or rather simply have been awakened by all the noise ?

"The Heisenberg-Bohr tranquilizing philosophy--or religion?--is delicately contrived that, for the time being, it provides a gentle pillow for the true believer from which he cannot very easily be aroused. So let him lie there."

-Albert Einstein, letter to Erwin Schroedinger (May 31, 1938)

Best,

Phil

Steven Colyer said...

I was fishing around the Net to learn more about your hero (and now mine thanks to you) Doug Hemmick and came across this beautiful passage. I love it so much I had to add it to my blog.

(One of) My (too many) problem(s) Phil is I listen too hard to too many differing opinions. That is to say my political leaning of Moderate and seeking Win-Win solutions bucks up hard against the "Take a stand!" crowd.

From this we can conclude I would make a lousy Physicist, given Physics' current sociological climate.

And I did in fact conclude that, which is why I steered the rudder hard into Applied Mathematics around last September.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Steven,

Those words of Pauli are part of Dr. Hemmick’s deep understanding regarding Einstein’s objections to standard quantum theory, which few understood then and arguably the same still is true today. It’s a classic example of the increased difficulty there is in finding answers if one first doesn’t fully appreaciate the question.

Anyway as you have for the most part abandoned physics for mathematics as your main interest, I no longer give my undivided attention to matters with which this quote is concerned. What I have enjoyed lately is reading many of the FXQi contest essays as to gauge the progress of modern thinking at the purported cutting edge. What this has me able to report is those same old quantum pillows are still doing an effective job. I have much to thank Dr. Hemmick for, with being able to understand why this is so as just one of them.

Best,

Phil

Steven Colyer said...

I haven't "abandoned" anything Phil, certainly not Physics. I still like the field very much, I love Science, and among the sciences Physics is the most base, and as a Mechanical Engr we got a strong dose of the classical Newtonian stuff in school as well as Thermodynamics and Fluid Dynamics.

But as much as I like Physics (and always will) I simply love Mathematics much more. And I must credit Physics for pointing the way. That's what I mean by "Applied Math", Phil . one foot in the Maths and one in the science.

Yes, I haven't had time to read all those FQXi essays. I read Bate's and Barbour's and Arjen's and one other I forget whose. Which are your favorites?

"Cutting edge" technically means the edge between the known and unknown, although I fear many go way beyond the "edge" so to speak, with assumptions piled on assumptions, etc. Which is not to say they're wrong, but if the assumptions are wrong then jah, so is the theory.

Which is why we still need Philosophers like Hemmick and you, to question the assumptions.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Steven,

Sorry, the way you expressed your reasons respective of your turn to mathematics is what I meant to have understood. I think you perhaps having the same feeling as myself that we are still quite some time from a breakthrough. Still though it’s interesting to observe and wonder where it all might shake out.

As for the FXQi essays I don’t have a particular favourite. However there are two, one by Edwin Eugene Klingman called “The Analog-In, Digital-Out Universe” and other by Emmanuel Moulay entitled “The Universe and Photons” which I find somewhat intriguing and yet indicative of how shallow the fundamental questions are still being considered.

Best,

Phil

Steven Colyer said...

No problemo, Phil. No apology necessary.

As far as where am I going? Don't know, and that's half fun and half frustrating, because people don't pay you in this world for being a generalist, and sooner or later it doesn't hurt to either shit or get off the pot and hopefully do something.

"I shot an arrow into the air, and where itr landed I know not where."

Who said that? That's me pretty much, for the time being

Sincerely (maybe),

The Elvish Archer

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Steve,

Your quote has more significance to the subject then you might know as it’s about ideas, good times and friendship.


I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.

I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?

Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.


-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – "The Arrow and the Song"


Best,

Phil

Plato said...

Hello you two,

Was lurking in the background and thought to post with this in mind, when I should of thought to comment here first.

My apologies if any offence was felt.

I hope my train of thought was comprehensible:)

Best,

Plato said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil Warnell said...

Hi Plato,

As I said in my response at Backreaction no apology required as no offense taken. More so I should apologize to you for having you to even think I might be offended.

Best,

Phil

Steven Colyer said...

Thanks to you both, and this is for you:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference


...Robert Frost

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Steven,

A nice quote projecting the spirit of such endeavour.

” I invite all such to join themselves, as true sons of knowledge, with me, that passing by the outer courts of nature, which numbers have trodden, we may find a way at length into her inner chambers.”

-Francis Bacon “Novum Organum”-1620

Best,

Phil

Steven Colyer said...

"I stand before you to sit behind you to tell you a story I know nothing about. One bright day in the middle of the night two sleeping boys got up to fight; back-to-back they faced each other, drew their swords and shot each other. The deaf policeman heard the noise; he came and killed those two dead boys. If you don't believe my story's true, you can ask the blind man, he saw it too."
..... Anonymous

Steven Colyer said...

Yeah that is a nice quote, thanks again Phil.

I also also point out that the caption gives a big clue as to why the irrepressible Pauli was prone to defend Einstein. Their views on Quantum Mechanics were almost diametrically opposed, but no way could Pauli not been affected by the kind words of such a great man.

Heck, it might even have made him cocky enough to tour America's West, get drunk quite often, and enter into a failed marriage with a Colorado floozie, all of which he did.

Eventually, Einstein would come around to the basic postulates of QM, partly because it's tough to argue against experimental results, but possibly perhaps of letters and conversations with Pauli?

In any event, the last of his fellow Quantum 10/11 (I say 11 because I include Weyl) to visit Einstein before he died, a week or two before, was Pauli. Of course they discussed Physics, and Pauli would later write to Bohr that old Albert hadn't fully come around. Einstein wrote to Bohr a month or so before his passing about a great Peace initiative ... Bohr never replied, or not in time. One gets the impression Bohr was sick of their arguments; Pauli never stopped trying.

Wolfgang Pauli was a persistent cuss that way. ;-)