The quantum world remains weird: Remembering the doomed “pilot wave”
|October 16, 2018||Posted by News under Cosmology, Intelligent Design, Physics|
French physicist Louis de Broglie (1892-1987) hoped that quantum mechanics could be brought within the same frame as classical physics via pilot wave theory, which envisioned “concrete particles, always with definite locations, that are guided through space by real pilot waves.” Apparently not.
But a series of bouncing-droplet findings since 2015 has crushed this dream. The results indicate that Couder’s most striking demonstration of quantum-like phenomena, back in 2006 — “the experiment that got me hooked on this problem,” the fluid dynamicist Paul Milewski said — was in error. Repeat runs of the experiment, called the “double-slit experiment,” have contradicted Couder’s initial results and revealed the double-slit experiment to be the breaking point of both the bouncing-droplet analogy and de Broglie’s pilot-wave vision of quantum mechanics.
The physicist Richard Feynman called the double-slit experiment “impossible, absolutely impossible, to explain in any classical way,” and said it “has in it the heart of quantum mechanics. In reality, it contains the only mystery.”
Tomas Bohr attributes his grandfather’s certainty that nature is incurably weird at the quantum scale to Niels Bohr’s most important physics research: his 1913 calculations of the electronic energy levels of the hydrogen atom. Bohr realized that when electrons jump between orbits, releasing quantized packets of light, there was no mechanical picture of the situation that made sense. He couldn’t relate the electrons’ energy levels to their rotational motion. Even causality failed, because electrons seemingly know before they jump where they are going to land, in order to emit a photon of the correct energy. “He was probably more aware than most of how weird that whole thing was,” Tomas Bohr said. “He was just somehow philosophically inclined in such a way that he was ready to accept that nature was that strange — and most people were not.” Natalie Wolchover, “Famous Experiment Dooms Pilot-Wave Alternative to Quantum Weirdness” at Quanta
It may be worth asking, why do we think nature should be clockwork anyway? When did we see clockwork produce life or great ideas or anything of the kind?
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See also: At Scientific American: Quantum theory does not require a conscious observer