Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Faust In Copenhagen

We seem to be having a lot of stuff on Bohr lately. In addition to the short news article on Bohr that I pointed to yesterday, there is a book review by John Rigden appearing today. Written by physicist Gino Segre, the book is titled "Faust in Copenhagen".

The book describes the situation in Denmark in the 1920's as many talented physicists descended upon the institute that Bohr has built. In many aspects, it sounds like an entertaining description of who these people are, rather than describing just their accomplishments.

I've always enjoyed Rigden essays before this, especially the ones that have appeared on Physics Today. In this review, he seems to also include a lot of his opinion on Bohr, and how later in Bohr's life, he seemed to be more of someone who tried to hinder a lot of progress within quantum mechanics. Whether this is true or not, I'm sure, is debatable. However, I do buy into what he said here:

Bohr contributed nothing to the powerful formalism of quantum mechanics. He did, however, provide the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, including the Principle of Complementarity in 1927. Again, I take issue with Mr. Segrè when he writes, "The Bohr interpretation still stands [today], as solidly as ever." The Copenhagen interpretation never did stand solidly: Pauli, Heisenberg, and Dirac tolerated it; contemporary physicists pay no attention to it.


No comments: