Science and Philosophy in the Soviet Union

By Loren R. Graham | Go to book overview

III Quantum Mechanics

Of all the philosophic issues posed by modern scientific theory, those involving quantum mechanics have been the most pressing and obstinate. Several problems in the philosophy of science of the past generation -- such as the interpretation of special relativity -- held the attention of scholars for a decade or more but have now lost much of their allure; other issues -- such as the interpretation of cybernetics and information theory -- have gained prominence only recently. But more than forty years after the publication of the essential mathematical apparatus of quantum mechanics the controversy swirls unabated, even intensified.1 It is a debate in which the scholars of many nations have participated, including those of the U.S.S.R.

The structure of quantum mechanics may be divided into a mathematical formalism and a physical interpretation of that formalism. The mathematical formalism, which is the core of quantum mechanics, is a differential wave equation, the solution of which is usually termed the psi (φ) function; the wave equation was first developed by Erwin Schrödinger, who pursued Louis de Broglie's extension of the concept of wave-corpuscle duality from light to elementary particles of matter. The advantage of this formalism is that it yields, on a probabilistic basis, numerical values permitting a more complete mathematical description of microphysical states, including prediction of future states, than has any other formalism so far. The disadvantage of the mathematical apparatus of quantum mechanics is that the only widely accepted (some would say the only possible) physical interpretation for it contradicts

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