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In footnotes or endnotes please cite AIP interviews like this:
Interview of David Bohm by Maurice Wilkins on 1987 April 3,
Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,
College Park, MD USA,
For multiple citations, "AIP" is the preferred abbreviation for the location.
Discussions with Krishnamurti; development of implicate order; student Donald Schumacher interested in Niels Bohr; Niels Bohr’s theories on quantum mechanics and their influence; Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein’s discussions about quantum mechanics; causal interpretation implicate order and formative cause; synthesis of mathematical and intuitive approaches; interest in the language used in physics; Erwin Schrödinger’s calculations.
It’s hard to remember, but we were discussing dialect last time in relation to the implicate order. I think that I should say, and this was a period around 1963, 1964, 1965. The sort of things that were happening to me were as follows. I had sort of gotten somewhat disenchanted with science as a solution to human problems, over the period of years, and culminating in Bristol and coming to London. I had sort of turned toward Krishnamurti who had another approach. If you go back to my earliest years, I felt that there would be progress, and science would be a key part of it, would get rid of poverty, and things would get better and better.
A 19th century view.
Yes, which really held into the early 20th century. And then after the second World War, it became more and more clear that it wasn’t happening, and the dream of socialism wasn’t working. The 20th Congress made that clear. So neither science nor politics, nor the combination of them, appeared to be the answer. As I said, I had began to read other things like Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. The question eventually came to me and Krishnamurti where we went into the nature of thought. Krishnamurti had two points to make which made a deep impression on me. One was that thought, which we take to be our highest achievement, is causing the trouble.
Yes. Did you find that notion rather shocking at first?
Well, I found it fascinating.
So obviously, you didn’t find it entirely repulsive.
Well, I had sort of been prepared for it by Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, and also by the general feeling of being let down by science and politics, which is the whole rational approach.
Incidentally, if I can just interject, did you see that some of the big American firms are now taking up Gurdjieff type trading for all their people, so they get a close sense of community with all the workers in the organization by doing special crash courses and so on, a Gurdjieff sort of psychological brainwashing, but I think this is what it amounts to. It’s very interesting the way these weirdo things are getting taking up by the capitalist establishments.
There is a certain amount of value in them. The only point is that when they’re pushed into the wrong context, they become absurd. Gurdjieff himself was not a balanced person. So I felt that Krishnamurti was a different sort of person than Gurdjieff, because I never felt attracted to try to find Gurdjieff groups or Ouspensky groups, although I could have found them quite easily. Krishnamurti was different. Especially in the early days, I felt we really were able to talk freely and he had a very lively mind, and open, and he went very deep. So the first point he made was thought, and the second point was that there’s something beyond thought, which is whatever you want to call it. Some people have called it the Sacred, or the Holy, in the ancient religions. You could say the Infinite. I used to call it the Infinite. In fact, even when I was in Princeton, I was fascinated by the idea of the infinite. Also in Brazil, I wrote the Causality and Chance in Modern Physics. I developed the idea that infinity of nature.
It isn’t Hegel in a way, if you’re taking thought as being the ordinary Aristotelian intellectual thought — I mean, Hegel is making the point that there’s got to be something beyond that.
Yes. He still calls it thought, but it’s thought which differs in two ways. One is that it’s moving; it’s no longer a fixed category. And it’s also all interconnected.
This holistic energy.
Holistic. The second point is that it is thought to which attention is paid. This was the key point that Krishnamurti was always emphasizing, the need for attention, and attention to thought especially. We included in thought feeling, desire, and will, the whole structure of consciousness. Because thought is the past participle of to think. It is what has been thought. And in that, there is always a mixture of feeling, desire, will. Whenever you think, whenever you remember something, there is a mixture of all the effects which went along with that experience. Whenever you think there is a mixture of all those, including your motivation, and so on. So I had that point then that?
I think my point was in a way, Hegel is making the same point, but I think he probably didn’t recognize it sufficiently because he was so dominated by this 18th century Enlightenment.
Right. Yes. I think that is making a similar point. It’s not exactly the same as Krishnamurti because Hegel wanted to say that at least dialectical thought would be necessary, but Krishnamurti was tending to rather devalue all thought. He sort of accepted it as useful technically. And then sometimes he said there’s another kind of thinking which is different, which you might guess what Hegel was talking about.
Yes. But that was just a pure guess.
Yes. But you see, Krishnamurti was never very clear on what he said about it. So I think that one of the weaknesses of Krishnamurti was that he tended to go too far in his statements and he put them in such a ways as to overdo it, in this case, to devalue all thought. Later on, he would say perhaps there is another kind of thought, but that came in too late to affect the emotional impact.
Yes. It was a little bit like his condemnation of groups and other things. He tended to be a bit sort of dogmatic.
Yes. But then he’d say that of course, sometimes you must have a group, but that would come too late. He would already have conveyed it.
Yes. And already set up all his followers going around saying, “No groups. No groups.”
Or, “No interpretation.” He used to say, “No interpretation,” and then it was absurd, because everybody must see what Krishnamurti means. Obviously he meant nobody who interprets should interpret as an authority representing Krishnamurti. But he didn’t say that. He said, “No interpretation,” and people became afraid to talk about anything he said. They said, “It’s such a mysterious thing. You mustn’t talk about it.”
I see. It was like the people who said that you shouldn’t be making an effort and that you shouldn’t work for your examination.
Yes. He uses language in a rather exaggerated way at times, giving it a special meaning, and then he corrects it maybe the next day or the next year.
He could have used the dialectical thing there to say that. He wanted no interpretation, and he did want interpretation.
Yes. No. But I meant though, different kinds of interpretation. That’s the problem. There’s the interpreter who comes in as if he’s just simply translating Krishnamurti for the common people. But anybody who talks must give what it means to him. To interpret is to say what it means. So then later on, he said, “Well, of course you must say what it means to you, but make it clear that it’s your view and not Krishnamurtis.”
I think my only point is that distinction of different sorts of interpretation might be put in an alien manner. I think [inaudible].
Yes. Well, you could. To say there would be the extreme in which, to a certain extent when you interpret you are attributing this to Krishnamurti, but you have to make it clear it is you who is doing it, and that mistake is often made when people quote other people, and so on. In any case, he didn’t make it too clear what he meant. Let’s put it that way.
I accept that he found that at times.
And that invited interpretation since he didn’t make it clear what it meant, then other people said what it means, and I’ll try to make it clear what it means. But then that might look like an exercise of authority to him, saying, “Hmm. They’re trying to use their position of authority.” There were people that used to set up groups and would be minor gurus and so on.
Of course, he did tend to be authoritarian himself, too, although he was in a sense trying not to be. He was inevitably caught in a trap.
Well, you see the word authority means author. I think, again, that he would finally have to say that that kind of authority is inevitable, but the other kind where a person who is not an author claims authorship, that’s really what he’s saying. That you, who are not the author of this, are claiming to be the offer, and that you have an authority for what Krishnamurti says. So let’s say that if you do say something, you must accept authorship, and say, “This is what I say, being inspired by what Krishnamurti said.”
But this is using force in a way, isn’t it?
To take an authoritarian position is using force.
Well, authoritarian is a wrong use of authority. You see, suppose a medical man is an authority on his subject, and he can talk with authority about it. But if someone who doesn’t know anything about it talks with the same authority, he is using authority falsely.
Yes. But I think the whole question is how does the authority communicate their knowledge to the other people?
Well, he says it with a great deal of energy and certainty. You see, he shouldn’t impose it, but at the same time, if he’s confident about what he says, then his confidence comes through, right?
Yes. But I think the whole thing is that I suppose he did every now and again say that you should just accept things because I said them. But I think it’s difficult to set up this sort of?
Yes. Well he didn’t really invite deep questioning and criticism. He could be very unpleasant and dismissive.
Yes. Of course, I only knew him later on when it was probably not so easy for him.
Anyway, that was where I was going. So Krishnamurti, going into it again, gave me a great deal of energy, not only for that, but also to do things in science. In other words, I felt that in science, as it was, I was losing my energy, which I couldn’t quite see what to do because there was all of this formalism everybody was getting into, and they didn’t want to have ideas.
So it gave you the encouragement to develop new approaches in science?
Yes. And it liberated a great deal of energy in many ways. At that time, I was sort of learning what he meant and it seemed very creative. I would talk about it to anybody who wanted to. Now, there’s a ways to go to Zanan [?] in 1963. From 1963 on we went to Switzerland every summer and talked with him there, and so on. It seemed for a couple of years a very creative thing. Now this question of wholeness, and it drew my attention specifically to fragmentation. I had known about it, but I felt very clear that fragmentation was a key problem. It turned my attention towards wholeness.
But you already got that to some extent from Hegel.
Yes. Well, even before that, I had always been interested that way. But it sort of gave an extra energy in that direction.
It’s really the wholeness thing goes right back to your teen age.
Yes. So then, if you’ll recall, there were the seeds of the implicate order there, and my work on its apology, on these mosaics, and also the seeds of the implicate order were in the dialectic, in the sense that things unfolded, what was implicit unfolded and became manifest. Then I remember I saw these examples of the ink droplet and the hologram. I was sort of thinking, how will we understand the quantum mechanics. That had always been my question ever since I saw it. The quantum mechanics seems to have a tremendous truth in it, but it’s very mysterious what it means. I had developed this causal interpretation in 1950, with a particle. In addition, at that time, I developed another one which was foreshadowing the implicate order, which was if you send an electron wave end against an atom, then a scattered wave appears, going outside of the original beam. You detect a particle in the scattered wave. The question is, although the wave scatters, you detect the particle, and the question is how does that happen? That’s one of the mysterious features of quantum mechanics. So I suggested that there be a second wave coming in, focusing in on the detector, and the first wave would somehow stir up the second wave by some new process not yet known. That was essentially the implicate order, to say that the second wave was enfolded already, and would then?
Enfolded in what?
In the whole, and would unfold into the part. Then after that it would spread out again, and do that again and again, and the picture of the particle would be constantly unfolding and enfolding. In and out. That was the picture I had in 1950, before I even thought of the causal interpretation, but I didn’t develop it.
So you didn’t publish it.
No. I didn’t even develop it. But it was already anticipating the implicate order. So I sort of already saw that quantum mechanics had that sort of thing in it. Saying that something was missing in quantum mechanics, essentially, they were only doing the first step, mainly letting the waves spread out, and suddenly saying, “Here comes a particle.” But they were leaving out all these other steps of the process. So I said, “Quantum mechanics must describe a process.” And Bohr says, “No process. That whatever it is cannot be described.” The causal interpretation came close to Bohr because it had this manifest level of the particle in it, in which the observer needn’t be mentioned. But it still did not have this implicate order fully because it just had the wave acting on the particle. The implicate order was a more fundamental view, I felt, of the meaning of quantum mechanics. Later I was able to show the connection between the implicate order and the causal, which we’ll come to, many years later. So those two views that I had in 1950 were actually closely related, but I only saw the relation after 1980. So I was developing the implicate order. And that time, there was a fellow called Donald Schumacher, who came as a student, a graduate student.
What year was that?
It could have been about 1965. He was very interested in Niels Bohr. He was very good. He worked on trying to find out what Bohr meant. I had been working on it a long time, and I had written a book, which I tried to put Bohr’s point of view in, in 1951. But actually, it wasn’t. I think it was closer to Pauli’s. Schumacher emphasized that Bohr was very careful with his language and was trying to present an unambiguous, a very careful way of using language. He balanced it so much that it’s very hard to understand. Even in Princeton, there was a graduate student who said that with Bohr, he says that the meaning of what he says cancels out in the first approximation, that connotation cancels out in the second approximation, and it’s only in the third approximation that anything comes through. So you have to read Bohr very carefully. I think Schumacher made a very intensive study of Bohr, and he came out with what I felt was some understanding, which was that it had to do a lot with language, that Bohr was trying to develop a consistent way of putting the facts in quantum mechanics. It’s very hard to make it consistent. Somebody like Von Neumann put it by saying, “The wave function represents the reality itself.” And then suddenly, when a measurement is made, the wave function has to collapse, as I described to the particle wave. So it isn’t making sense. When you follow that through, you’ll find it’s very arbitrary and very unclear what it means. Most physicists use it, but still it’s a muddle. Von Neumann’s language is a muddle. But most physicists don’t realize it because they never analyze it. But you see, Bohr put it consistently. I think Schumacher’s statement was that the form of the experimental conditions and the meaning of the results are a whole, not further analyzable. Therefore, the form of the conditions is described classically. Bohr emphasizes that the experimental conditions must be described in the classical manifest world.
In the way they operated, right?
That’s right. And also, the result is described classically. But the meaning of the result must bring in quantum mechanics. It’s only the meaning that makes it interesting. But the question is how are you to do this consistently? Because somehow, starting with a classical structure, you’re jumping into a quantum meaning. What he said was that this is a whole. He said that because the quantum is indivisible, you cannot separate the quantum from the classical. The quantum of action is indivisible; therefore you cannot say there is a quantum level and a classical level. That’s the sort of thing that Von Neumann said, but it gets into a muddle. So what Bohr says is that the distinction between this quantum and the classical is only a logical one. What that means is that it’s not an existential distinction of saying, “This is here, and that’s there.” If it were existential, you would say, “Here is something quantum, here is something classical, and they interact.” That’s what Von Neumann said. Now, Bohr said no, they are one whole because of the quantum of action. These are two terms appearing in that whole, the classical description of the conditions and the result, and the quantum meaning. He says the quantum meaning is only described symbolically by the mathematics, which gives the probability of the result. But you must have the complete experimental conditions. If you don’t put it all in, it won’t make sense. It’s got to be one whole. There’s a certain wholeness in this Bohr approach, which is not in the Von Neumann approach where he breaks it up in two where he makes the observer and the observed. Bohr doesn’t do that. He says that the experiment as a whole, the observer is out there, but it doesn’t matter. He’s just looking at the classical manifest level where it doesn’t matter what he does, and therefore he could be left out of the picture.
Yes. But the observing apparatuses?
And whatever is observed are a whole. You introduce, however, a language which distinguishes the thing observed from the observing apparatus, but that is a form because you can only discuss the observed things symbolically. The electron can only be discussed symbolically, whereas the conditions are discussed by ordinary common sense language, and the result. But nevertheless, these two features of the language make a whole. That was his view. You cannot, then discuss the parts of that, in the sense of saying, “How does the result come about from the initial conditions?” Do you see?
So you just sort of draw a blind down and say, “You can’t do that.”
He’s trying to say that the laws of the quantum theory are such that you cannot consistently try to do that. The very least he could say is, “If you don’t do it, but do what I say, you will be consistent.” He might also believe that there was no other way to be consistent. I’m sure he did. I think that we became more clear what Bohr was about, that it had to do with a change in the way you use language. Because the physicists ordinarily said, “Our language is describing things as they are, and if two things are distinguished, they must be different.” Here we make distinctions as a whole just for the sake of description, like form and content.
So he is defining the nature of a barrier there which exists because you’re using different languages on both sides of the [???]
Yes. He calls it a logical distinction, but I think it would be more accurate — I think Schumacher suggested it was a language question.
So that seems clear. So he was making clearer the nature of the limits to the understanding of the total thing.
Yes. So he was saying that because of the quantum of action, there was an inherent ambiguity in the meaning of the result because you could only discuss it symbolically through the formalism as a probability.
Having done that, where does that get you?
The least it gets you is to find out what Bohr was saying.
So you have a clearer picture of what he was saying.
Yes. Because everybody plays lip service to Bohr, but nobody knows what he says. People then get brainwashed into saying Bohr is right, but when the time comes to do their physics, they are doing something different. That introduces confusion into physics. In fact, even Heisenburg and Pauli did not do exactly what Bohr did. They all called it the Copenhagen interpretation, but then when you went on to Von Neumann, it was very different again, and various others. So there was a tremendous confusion that reigned in the interpretation of the theory, and it got worse as the number of interpretations kept on increasing.
I might interject that I heard from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, they had a big meeting on Bohr, that they are going to publish what the papers there. So they’ll probably send them to me at some stage because I’m a member of the team, and I’ll let you have it when it comes to see what more interpretations are there.
But that brought us into the question of language, and the discussions between Bohr and Einstein. There had been long discussions over the years between Bohr and Einstein to clear up these questions. They began by being very close to each other, and Einstein, when he first saw Bohr, he says, “I had a tremendous feeling of love for him,” and everything. They got along very well, but they could never agree on this question of interpretation. Einstein’s language was that he would get a unique description of reality so that the description was a direct reflection of reality, and the equipment would not play a part. It was not so much a question of whether there was chance in there, because although Einstein said, “God doesn’t play dice,” that wasn’t the main point. The main point was whether you could get a unique description of reality. And Einstein took the ordinary view of a scientist that you could, and Bohr said you couldn’t. Bohr said you were inherently limited to this use of the classical language for the experimental conditions and the results, and the symbolic mathematical description of the quantum.
But Einstein never provided a clear alternative to what Bohr said.
No. He didn’t accept that Bohr’s approach could be taken as final, and Bohr insisted that it was.
He was seeking one, but didn’t find it.
No. But he first wanted to establish it made sense to seek it. Bohr would say, “It makes no more sense than to seek that two plus two equal five.” Bohr essentially blocked the search, not to say that Einstein claimed he had it, but Einstein claimed it was worth doing, and Bohr said, “This is absurd.” So Bohr was sort of undercutting whatever Einstein wanted to do and saying that there’s no point in doing it. It’s idiotic.
Where does the implicate order fit into this?
Well, we have to come to that. The implicate order solves this thing, or even the causal interpretation solves it, but also the implicate order. I’ll give you the causal interpretation first. It says that you have the particle and then you have the wave, which is more subtle. The wave is what I call a formal cause, or information. To understand the causal interpretation, you have to bring in something like Aristotle’s notion of formal cause, but I call it formative cause. See, Aristotle had the idea that there are four causes: the formal, the final, the efficient, and the material. Physics still recognizes the efficient cause and the material cause. The efficient cause is just; for example, the force that sets things going, and the material cause is the matter in which it works. Aristotle had the idea that the form that a thing has is a cause. Like, you say that the form of the animal is the cause of its growth, and if it has that, it has an end in view as it grows toward that form.
Some sort of goal which exists?
Implicitly in the form. It already is a kind of implicate order. The seed is implicitly the plant. It unfolds into the plant. I think quantum mechanics requires that you introduce formative cause, and all of modern physics is dedicated to the idea that you must never think of it, but you must stick only to efficient cause and material cause. Every one of the ideas, whether causal interpretation or the implicate order, brought in formative cause. And physicists violently — they really don’t like it. They think it’s absurd or unnecessary or whatnot. In the case of the causal interpretation was very simple. We had a particle, and it’s movement was, first of all, in the first approximation just given by the classical potential, which depends only on the particles, and therefore you have what I call a manifest world self-determinant at approximation. The ordinary, common sense classical manifest world. You can leave the observer out of it because he can look at it without affecting it significantly. So that’s a public world where communication has unambiguous meaning, and Bohr really emphasized that very much. “If you cannot know what your terms mean,” he said, “your theory breaks down.” Here in this classical world, we can have unambiguous meaning, and the causal interpretation does exactly the same. Now Bohr would say the quantum world is un-picturable, indescribable, and it is just simply symbolic, mathematical symbolism for the probability. I’m saying instead that the wave function represents a wave, but it acts not by its intensity, but according to its form. It acts in a way which doesn’t depend on the intensity. Therefore it’s like a radar wave, which when picked up guiding a ship would act only according to its form. It doesn’t push the ship around mechanically, but it is picked up and according to the form, represents the information of the environment and the ship moves accordingly. So a ship could be guided by a radar beam by saying that it’s a bit stronger on this side than on this side, but the relative strength counts and not the absolute.
And then the motion of the ship, you know what the mechanism is.
The ship moves on its own. But I’m going to propose now, the electron also moves on its own in a way that is yet unknown. This violates an assumption which scientists make that the smaller the particle, the simpler. But I’m saying that’s an arbitrary assumption. There’s no reason why it’s so. There may be plenty of room for structure in the electron because between, say, 10-16 where is as small as they’ve gone, 10-33 where you might have a gravitational cutoff is a tremendous range of structure. The same as you’ve got from 10-16 to our size.
So when the wave comes, the electron has some kind of thing that you don’t know, like with a little radar and...
Something you don’t know which causes it to respond to the wave.
It responds to the form of the wave and not the intensity. The point is that’s a formative cause, which is very common. If you take a radio wave, it’s very weak and only the radio set responds to its form by its own energy. The computer does the same. The very tiny currents in the chips will affect much bigger currents in the machinery. And the DNA does the same. The form of the DNA molecule is what the RNA and the whole cell responds to.
In a sequence.
That’s form. It’s the shape that counts. So therefore, you have a formative cause. Then information in human beings works the same way, to inform, to put form into. And if you inform somebody, he will act according to the form of the idea. The form of the printed word is what counts and not the intensity.
Why should anyone object to this idea, then?
They don’t like the idea that anything like this is going on. They think the particle must be a simple mechanical thing.
It’s too small?
But at the same time, they’re saying, “No. It’s not a mechanical thing. It’s something you can’t picture at all.” It sort of jumps around. On the one hand they say, “This is so mysterious, nothing can be said about it.” And on the other hand, when the time comes to really think about it, they say, “It’s a little ball.”
But the reason they say that it’s so mysterious is because Bohr said so.
Yes. Or because they’ve been brainwashed into it.
Yes. But it’s to some extent the great influence of Bohr.
And Heisenburg, and Pauli, and some of the others.
It’s the whole period.
Yes. So they’ve closed people’s minds to such [???].
Yes. See, Heisenberg emphasized that no picture could be made under the atomic domain. It had to be just mathematics. So now you can say that the electron can be understood as a formative cause, and we say now that the manifest level is affected by a more subtle formative level. We can touch the manifest world because our own bodies are also in the manifest world, and they interact in that way. But we don’t directly touch the world of the wave function, only indirectly. But our own minds also work in a similar way; the form of our thought will affect what we do. So I’m saying that’s the subtle world. I’m not identifying the mind world with the wave function, they’re related, but I’m saying that the general picture is in addition to the manifest world, we have many levels of subtlety. The subtle world affects the manifest world, and the way we find that quantum mechanics is needed is to discover things that are happening in the manifest world that are not explained by the laws of the manifest world, and we say that there is a subtle wave function which changes it. You also do the same thing with people and the way you attribute mind to them. So I agree with Bohr in many ways, and disagree in other ways. I saw we agree on this manifest world without the observer needed. I say that we can form a picture, an idea, of how the subtle world works in the manifest world, and he says, “No. It cannot be done. You can only have the algorithm. You can only have the symbolic treatment.”
But if you took this idea to Bohr, what would his response be?
He would say that these particles are not necessary. When you bring it to him, the first response would be, “Why are you inventing all of these particles? They don’t add anything to the experiment.” If you apply Bohr’s rules, we will predict a certain result, and using these, we predict the same result. Of course, I say these particles might obey different laws, and therefore, there might be some room for something new, but we haven’t reached it yet.
I’m lost. Which of these particles?
Which I’ve suggested. See, I say an electron is a particle affected by a subtle wave. Bohr would not say anything about what the electron is, but if he just says we have this classical manifest world, and we applied the rules of the algorithm, we would get the probabilities right for the experiments.
But this subtle wave, you mean as a particle associated with the subtle wave?
The other wave, the subtle wave is associated to the particle.
You’ve got the electron, but you’ve got another kind of particle.
No. I’m saying we’ve got to turn the language around. People have gotten so used to saying that the electron is a wave function, that they always assume it. I’m not assuming that. I’m saying the electron is the particle which is affected by the subtle wave function, so it behaves differently from what you would expect. Just to say a human being is a certain structure, but he is affected by something subtle in him which makes him different than just a collection of machinery.
I’ve got the idea that you’re saying the electron has properties that people would not think it reasonable to associate?
Yes. As a particle, it has those properties, but in ways we don’t know.
So the main thing you’re saying then is that the electron has special properties which normally are not attributed to electrons.
Not to any kind of particle.
To any kind of particle.
And one of the properties is that it can respond to this subtle wave. But the electron is never separated from the subtle wave, so what we call the electron, its behavior depends on that subtle wave, except that in the classical limit, its effect is so small, you can neglect it.
But you were talking earlier about these particles, but the only particles you’re talking about are the electrons.
That’s right. Yes. But I’m starting from a different assumption, and usually people say the wave function is a complete description of reality, but the wave function is only symbolism.
I see. You’re starting off with the idea of a particle electron which has special attributes.
Yes. And along with it is a subtle wave. And that subtle wave will bring about a wholeness of the electron with its environment, just as the subtle mental properties of human beings will unite them with their whole environment.
What you’ve got then is a coherent description of the whole process.
That’s right. Yes.
And you still end up with probabilities?
The same. Except that this process has a different concept, so I have room in there to change the laws so they’re not exactly the same as quantum mechanics. I can make them the same, or I can make them different. But in quantum mechanics, you can’t change them.
But there’s no point in making them different.
No. Not yet. But there’s room if ever an experiment came up.
So you’re idea explains all the known experiments, might explain other ones in the future, but also gives a coherent description of the total process, which had been lacking previously.
Yes. It contains the feature of consistency in Bohr’s approach, which it aims to set up. In other words, that you actually manifest at a classical level where you don’t need to consider the observer. See, that was confused before. Before Bohr brought that in, people were always bringing the observer directly into the theory, and what does that mean? And they still are with Von Neumann.
But most physicists are not necessarily interested in this coherent description because they managed to get along, they feel, quite well without having a coherency.
Yes. They got their results, and they say that’s the main point. They say, “What’s the use of bothering with this”? But that’s a different approach as to what you mean by physics. As I said, physics consists of getting results which you compare with an experiment. That’s all. Anything else must only serve that.
So as you say, there’s always the possibility that some new result that could come up, which couldn’t be explained by quantum mechanics, and your theory might be [???] for that.
Yes. So the implicate order only appears here in the sense that the subtle level follows the implicate order. It’s a wave which unfolds and folds. So we would say that’s a matter that fits with our common experience, say, with human beings. The manifest level follows the explicate order, the body and so on, but the way people behave and the interaction through the mind follows the implicate order because the un-foldment of thoughts. See, each person unfolds the whole surrounding, so you will see them behaving by taking into account everything. If you tried to say that there are various forces in the environment that are pushing them around, they wouldn’t understand it. Because people go around taking into account everything in very complex, unpredictable ways, which show that his hand folds the whole environment, which is inactive in him as a formative cause. So that’s the jest that between inanimate matter and animate matter. The difference is not absolute.
You then say that this thing about the formative wave is equivalent to the implicate order idea.
Well, it’s part of it. The implicate order goes further, but it contains some of the implicate order idea in the sense that this formative wave unfolds the whole environment, and the particle responds to it. The implicate order idea goes further because it says that perhaps even the particle structure itself might unfold from the environment.
But it’s just an extricate form.
Yes. And in fact, something like that was achieved later when we thought about applying this interpretation to the quantum mechanic field theory, where the basic reality is now not a particle, but a field. But then there’s a super wave function applying to the whole field, which acts as a formative cause on the field. When that can be neglected, we just get Maxwell’s equations, so waves spread out. But when it’s not neglected? As I said, I didn’t get a lot of resonance on this whole thinking from physicists. I don’t think that they could see why I was interested in this, most of them. They said, “What’s the need for any of this?”
“It doesn’t enable us to do anything we couldn’t do before in the way of explaining existing results.”
Yes. Being able to calculate.
It wasn’t all that encouraging then, was it?
No. They also didn’t see any new mathematics, and they said that mathematics was the main thing that interested the theoretical [???].
They would have been more impressed had it been new mathematics.
But you did find it discouraging?
Well, one point was that it was somewhat discouraging, but it didn’t affect me very much because my interest had gone so strongly toward Krishnamurti that physics was not the only point of my life at the time, not that central, so I could say, “I’ll keep on working on it,” because I had other interests.
The reason I ask this question was that I saw a little bit of the end of a life of Turner program on the television last night, and apparently towards the end of his career, he got a lot of very negative responses indeed to his painting, and apparently this did discourage him a lot. I thought, “Well, why didn’t he know, as some painters do, that what he was doing made sense? Why did he worry?”
You can never be sure that it’s right, and the other point is, at least I don’t know about the paining, but it’s essential in science that it’s a public activity which requires participation together as for its meaning. There’s not much point in putting something out if nobody pays attention to it ever.
That’s quite true. But to some extent, you might say the same thing about art, mightn’t you? But I think that art has sometimes too managed to sustain themselves at their own sort of [???].
At least the artwork has more of an individual meaning. But any scientific work, it’s meaning is only as a communication, as something which is shared.
Yes. You mean it’s more like a brick in a structure or a house or something.
That’s true. I suppose you’re right. In both cases, you have the feeling that you can’t be sure you’re right.
Also, at the time, I remember I gave talks on the implicate order to all sorts of people, like artists and architects and so on, and they appreciated it. See, that all helped. They could all get interested in it. The physicists couldn’t because they said, “It has nothing to do with physics.”
Yes. The artists had sort of wider philosophical sort of interest.
I remember there was this student of mine, Jeffery Bub, and I gave a talk on the Seven Days in Tel Aviv on the implicate order, and he said what happened was that the standard form of talks in physics exist of everybody gives his so called philosophy in the first ten minutes, and then he starts putting down formulas. So people remain asleep until they see the first formula, and then they wake up. So I kept on talking and talking, and looked there, and they remained asleep, and then toward the end, they finally realized it was too late, that they’d missed the talk. There is that tendency to fall asleep because usually, what they call their philosophy is a vague set of statements not very well considered.
Really what they say in the introduction is going to be articulated more clearly in the mathematics.
Yes. That’s right. Or in fact, often it doesn’t even have much to do with it. So people say the real stuff comes with the mathematics, the other stuff, as I used to say, is the “icing on the cake.”
But if you were really to go deeper into the nature of American science, then ultimately there isn’t any difference, although there is a sort of quantitative difference of emphasis in the way it organized. But ultimately it’s got to be a matter of embracing all the [???]. Any meaning from artistic work has got to relate to some kind of universal in humanity. In that sense, they aren’t different.
Ultimately, they must be related.
But I can see that in a limited sense of how people work, it’s not different. I think it’s this question about some people think that art is subjective and science is objective, but I think this was brought up clearly to me in reading about Chekhov about how he worked and dealing with things that are normally considered at the subjective level. How a work of art can actually be very objective in working and in constructing. He had to be very objective, just like a scientist.
Anyway, this involved a considerable extended question of language. You can see the way the language in the way in which we were approaching it. Bohr had one language and Von Neumann had another language, saying that the wave function was a complete description of reality, which it mattered to a certain use of language. And that led to the idea of its collapse. So I was proposing another language, and I didn’t have it fully developed, but I could put it how as the manifest and the subtle, the implicate order and the explicate order, which is quite different. The basic language of physicists has been that everything should eventually be reduced to the manifest, and what is inside a thing is only some smaller bits of the same sort of thing that is outside, fundamentally.
This was breaking down once they got on to ether, and breaking down as much in the [???], wasn’t it?
Yes. But it’s still the language which is used. Everything is made of atoms, which are essentially the same as the common sense view, the manifest view. To say that the only reason that it’s not manifest is it’s too small to be seen, but if you just magnify it, then its manifest.
What about a field? How is that manifest?
Well, that’s a bit more subtle, but it manifests in the atom. They will carry it one stage further, but then it’s like the wind, manifest in the trees, and some scientists wanted to say there were ether particles carrying the field, but others didn’t want to. But it doesn’t go very far. The field is only a small step away from the manifestation.
Yes. But you mean you can push an electron in a field and that makes manifest the field.
Yes. And at the same time, the field is what makes the electron manifest by the waves that it scatters. So they manifest in each other in a way. But they’re both still not all that different. In the quantum mechanics we have a formative cause. See, both are similar in the sense that they both depend their energy for their effect on the force in energy rather than on form. When we get to the formative cause, it cannot be considered to be a part of the system, which is just exchanging energy and force with the other parts, as the field can be thought of exchanging energy with the particles. So the formative cause operates differently, and in the same way, you can’t say that the mind is exchanging energy with the objects in the environment, conserving and so on. So there was a different use of language. Thorough my discussions with Schumacher, I became very aware, I have to say first of all that Einstein’s use of language and Bohr’s were in collision. They couldn’t agree. Einstein took the view essentially of the manifest world but subtle enough to be a field. Bohr said that there is subtle world, but it can only be discussed symbolically and no more can be said about it. So between Einstein and Bohr, they never could agree on what the problem was. Einstein kept on bringing up objections to the quantum theory from hypothetical experiments, and Bohr always answered them, thereby apparently proving that Einstein was wrong. That wasn’t the point at all. The point was that Einstein had one view as to what kind of language would describe the truth, and Bohr had another. To Einstein, Bohr had what he called the tranquilizer philosophy. He just said that Bohr was avoiding the question of trying to give a real explanation.
But then when Einstein described the hypothetical experiments and then Bohr explains the...
Well, Einstein didn’t accept his explanations, essentially. In the case of weighing a proton, he gave a good one. But when it came to the Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky experiment, then Einstein would never accept Bohr’s explanation. He said that what Bohr called an explanation was actually an evasion of the issue. Bohr would say Einstein was turning in a reactionary way against his own insights in the theory of relativity. So they were really at cross purposes. The point they were arguing about was not the point they were talking about. The point at issue.
So your point is that if they’d had more extensive dialog, they might finally be able to realize what they really were arguing about.
Yes. The point was that they had different notions of language and truth, and so on. Einstein said that you must have a complete description of reality in the quantum mechanics as incomplete from the Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky experiment, he gave an argument proving to his satisfaction that the wave function did not give a complete description of reality. Bohr’s argument was a very subtle one. What he said was that there was no meaning to what Einstein was doing. Unless you discuss the whole experimental arrangement and the symbolic meanings of the formulas, then there’s no meaning. In order for Einstein to discuss what he discussed, he would not bring in the whole experimental arrangement. In my book, I developed it in terms of two particles with spin. If you measured one particle, the other would always have the opposite spin. Now, Einstein would say, “If you measure one particle, then you can predict with certainty what the other one has, but without interacting with it.” He said, “If you don’t interact with it, and it’s found to have that value, then it must have had it anyway.” Einstein said that you could do that with one spin or the other, X or Y, which didn’t commute, which are not supposed to be observable together. You would then say that at least in the other atom, which didn’t interact with the first, the values were there, even though you couldn’t measure them together, and therefore quantum mechanics was incomplete because it never could describe the values being there together. Bohr said that was a misconception because he said there was no meaning to this experiment unless you put the whole arrangement in, which included not only measuring this spin, but measuring that. But Einstein was talking about what that atom is when it is not measured. So I sense that makes perfect sense in my view because there is a unique reality that doesn’t have to be measured, and Bohr said you are simply using language wrongly and meaninglessly, and going back on your insights on relativity where you say that every measurement depends on the context for what it means.
Roughly, what year was that?
Well, at 1935.
Were they doing this by letter?
No. What happened was Einstein wrote a paper, and Bohr would have to answer it. The story was that Bohr got a copy of it pre-publication. He got a copy of this paper and it worried him, he went to a point of sleepless nights before he devised an answer. But Einstein said there was no answer, it was just a tranquilizer philosophy. Bohr said his objections were pointless, that they were turning against his own revolutionary advances in relativity.
And just give up?
They kept arguing and arguing, but they just repeated their arguments and gradually, they gave up. The story is that many years later in the 1950s, Einstein and Bohr were at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and they never met, in spite of their closeness many years before. So finally Herman Weyl, a mathematician, thought they ought to meet, and he arranged a party for them and their students. In this party, Bohr and his students appeared at one end and Einstein and his students at the other end. They still didn’t meet because they couldn’t talk to each other, there’s nothing to say.
And they were embarrassed.
Yes. Because they talked and talked and talked, and they knew that they would just simply say the same old thing again.
So they didn’t feel it proper that they should just be together and talk about it, have a cup of tea or something. They thought this would be somehow?
Well, this question was always in the background, worrying things.
Right. It would be too artificial.
Yes. So therefore, they didn’t meet. The point was there were two ways of using language and two explanations and two sets of assumptions, which they never explicitly put in there for they didn’t know what they were arguing about.
Okay. But in a dialogue situation, however long it went on, it’s like Hegel’s or Lenin’s right conditions. Presumably they never achieved the right conditions.
Well, they weren’t doing a dialogue. They were not discussing the point which was the unconscious assumption, or even conscious. But they did not discuss their assumptions. They argued by saying, “This is my assumption. This is my result.” They did not get together and say, “Here are our two assumptions. Let me look at your assumption as favorably as I can, and you look at mine.”
Yes. But aren’t you slightly pre-judging the whole thing because in a dialogue, you cannot specify the right way for dialogue, you just have to start off.
Yes. But unless that happens, it will be quite useless.
So the right conditions. But in every dialogue, presumably, where you have?
But one of the conditions would be to understand the way a dialogue has to operate. If you understand dialogue as simply exchanging your opinions and sticking to them, then you will never meet.
So what you’re saying is that it was an ineffective dialogue because it had a blocking and a lot of confrontation or limitation.
Yes. Which meant that they did not understand that the dialogue was called for and what that would mean. So they took it as an argument on scientific merit, but the problem was on another level.
This surely is typical of all kinds of confrontations in dialogue, which people have to make some sort of creative leap at some stage to see the terms in which they’re looking at the whole problem are inadequate. Isn’t that right?
So what they were doing is just one example of what happens if. There’s no rule for attaining an agreement through dialogue, is there? You may analyze being...
No. But you can, and people become more aware of it, that what is needed is a dialogue and they’ll have to listen to each other’s assumptions.
You mean you could say to them, “You can set up rules to some extent for helping to generate a dialogue,” and instead, “Did you look at that little book which I lent you at all?” That is trying to do that, to some extent. But it’s like being creative. You cannot train people to be creative, but you can set some indicators about the sort of way that you proceed, and no more that.
I didn’t realize that what was called for was to do this, but they took it to mean that they were just arguing about scientific questions.
So that if a third party had been there and understood it properly, if you had been able to go along there and point this out to them, and they were prepared to be patient about it, they might then have been able to proceed.
Yes. They’ve got to perceive that they are arguing about premises which they are accepting.
If either both of them or one of them had had sufficient energy to persist on the whole thing, it might have struck them.
Yes. It was no use to repeat the argument. What they had to do was to focus on the premises and bring them out. The causal interpretation helps show what the argument was about because in the causal interpretation, we have exactly Bohr’s requirement of a manifest world where you get your results, but we have a subtle world which is affecting the manifest world. Since Bohr had no clear picture of that, he could not communicate it to Einstein. He could only talk about the symbolic. So it is absurd to say that a symbolism affects the real world. The issue would have been that there are two levels to this real world. One is the manifest level, and the other is the subtle level. Einstein is saying that it’s all one level. That was the real issue.
So he was just skipping over one essential part of his.
But you could not bring that out at that time because I think that the attempt to put it as Bohr put it made it so vague and so difficult to put, that Einstein could never have understood it in those terms. Einstein could have understood, I’m postulating a subtler level than you are. But Einstein cannot understand saying, “I am not postulating anything. There is another level, but I am only discussing it symbolically, and logically, and not discussing it.” Einstein could never have understood what Bohr was driving at as long as Bohr put it in those terms, because he more or less was unable to say whether there was a reality or not a reality.
If Einstein was properly conscious of the terms in which Bohr was putting it?
But it was exceptionally hard. I studied this thing for many years, I wrote a book on it, and I talked it over with Schumacher, and whatnot, and it still really wasn’t all that clear.
But doesn’t this simply illustrate the fact that if you’re arguing from two different positions, or having a dialogue or something, there may be considerable difficulty in making the necessary creative leap, because it may involve some type of mental operation which is different from the whole nature of the [inaudible].
But it means listening to the other person’s view favorably for a while, and trying to really put it in the best possible way.
Do you mean that if Einstein had worked very hard to put himself in Bohr’s shoes?
And the other way around.
And the other way around. You that’s what might have been sufficient?
It could have helped. Einstein found it very hard to go into Bohr’s shows because he said there was a unique reality. That was his premise.
So in effect, we might say that it was almost a lack of courage because it’s this sort of thing that you need surely to do this. When you think that someone else is unreasonable, it can be quite frightening to try and put yourself in that position.
Bohr was saying that Einstein was an old fuddy-duddy sticking to that simple view of reality.
I think it’s the sort of courage which is often what the younger people find easier because they haven’t got all of their background of commitment and lessons of their whole life’s work. They’ve got less to lose.
Then you published these things?
No we didn’t. The trouble was that we wrote something on Einstein and Bohr together, Schumacher and I, and Schumacher then broke down. He was rather unstable and he broke down into paranoid schizophrenia and he was hospitalized, and before that, he was getting all sorts of disturbed reactions to this. He went against it and he began to change it into an incomprehensible thing, and it became impossible to do anything with it.
Do you think that this might have been?
No. I think the problem was with Krishnamurti, who introduced more than him. But I think fundamentally, he had a whole history. We went back and found out later, from an early childhood.
Did he have connection with Krishnamurti?
I brought them together and so on. I thought maybe Krishnamurti could help it, but it turned out he didn’t, and it may have made it worse. So you can see that there are many questions of communication that were involved all around Bohr and Einstein, and between Donald and Krishnamurti, and so on. So I became very interested in this question of language through all of this, even before all of this had happened, and I could see that this question of the use of language must play a big part. In fact, Heisenberg and Bohr had set physics off in this mathematical usage of language saying that the essence of science is in the equations, and that mathematics just satisfies equations, then he pictures are no longer possible. That was totally against Einstein’s way of using language, and of course, a great many other physicists, including myself. I felt that there was something in what Einstein, and there was something in what Bohr said, and we had to somehow include both and get beyond both. I think that the implicate order did, and the way I explained. It includes Bohr’s notion of that manifest world, but it goes to a subtle world, which is at least something Einstein would have understood, though he might have rejected it.
So what you’re saying is that in effect, you made a synthesis of two important points of view, but the ordinary died in the wool physicist would simply say that you made a diversion by cooking up a misguided Einstein sort of notion which wasn’t necessary because they didn’t see the need for it.
They had no notion of what Bohr was saying, and they had some vague notion of what Einstein was saying, but no notion of what Bohr was saying. They didn’t see the need for it as long as they could do their computations. So the whole thing was really not understood by physicists, and no attention was paid to it. In addition, there was a fellow at Bath University that did a sociological study of this. He gave evidence where he thought there was a systematic attempt to prevent the causal interpretation from being taken seriously on the part of physicists like Heisenberg and [???] and so on. They allowed the papers to be published, or just put out that there was nothing in it, since they function as an authority.
Which papers were those?
On the causal interpretation.
And you published that yourself?
Yes. The first one was in 1951, and then we published others later.
So that these papers were somehow there, but not there.
Yes. The word got around that there was nothing in it, and people were very prone to accept authority among physicists.
So I think this is a common thing in science, that people say, “Oh. We’ve seen this thing, and there isn’t anything in it.” And then you seek guidance, and then they repeat this. It’s just ignored really, unless you have someone who is ignorant who isn’t in the know, who then may be innocent enough to pay attention to it. So only the ignorant people have the advantage then.
That was one point. And then in the development of the implicate order, I was trying to bring together the mathematics and the physical ideas, saying, Okay. Let’s take all of this mathematics of [???] space. Let’s try to understand what it means. It means this unfoldment. And in my later language, it means the subtle level acting in the manifest.
By the way, about the sociological, did the chap publish it?
I don’t know. He sent me a copy of it and it’s now lost. I don’t even remember his name. But he probably published it somewhere.
Because it would be an interesting study of the sociology of science, because I don’t know that they much study that type of thing in contemporary science. I think people do it sort of in the past, some distance in the past.
Why was he stimulated to make the study?
I don’t know. He found it an interesting phenomenon.
Did you know him?
No. He did it by himself.
So without any contact with you, he just saw this paper in the literature?
Somehow he learned about it and he said, “Why isn’t attention being paid to it?”
In fact, being an ignorant outsider, which enabled him to see that there was a question, whereas the physicists wouldn’t have seen that there was any question as they had an answer already.
Well, they had an answer and in the beginning, it was primarily the big shots that put out the word. Then later people got so used to repeating the word that it became the accepted wisdom. A long time ago, Von Neumann made that statement that physics is organized like the Church. It’s got a pope, and cardinals, and bishops and so on. He said he would put himself as a cardinal, if I can remember, or a bishop. I don’t remember which. It’s organized hierarchically and authoritatively. Of course, they don’t formalize it. Everybody pretends it’s not there.
But it functions nonetheless.
Von Neumann was then dead, wasn’t he.
By that time? He was dead by the 1960s. He may have been alive, but I don’t know. I didn’t contact him. So I was interested in trying to somehow synthesize the mathematical approach with the intuitive approach. That I do, even to this problem in Berkeley, why I felt people insisted. They didn’t want any intuitive understanding. They only wanted mathematics when I thought I might quit physics. I thought the way out of that would be to weave the two together, but it was successful in writing my book in quantum theory, and here it went too far beyond what physicists would be ready to accept. So I didn’t reach the physicists.
You mean as a published paper in the physical journals, it didn’t?
Well, some physicists may have paid attention to it, but it didn’t ever get to the point where people would ever really take up the issues.
Paid serious attention to it. Yes. So it’s a little bit like the people in the Middle Ages who didn’t pay attention to Menova [?] or something because they didn’t fit in with established patterns and their view and they didn’t make any note of it. But you could see that they were there, but you could say, “So what? Forget it.” So you don’t know where the sociological paper was?
Do you know any way of finding it?
I don’t know where that fellow is now.
There ought to be some analyses of titles of papers of something.
I can’t remember the title, either.
What I’m getting at is theoretically with all of these data storage on computers, that they have descriptions of titles, and they ought to be able to pick up a phrase? In the title, there would be something about what was the title of your paper? You know, those?
Yes. But I don’t know if he repeated that.
But it might well be. What I’m getting at is that I would have thought it would be interesting if the paper could be traced?
Maybe we can trace it through Bath University.
Yes. Do you know what department it was in?
Well, obviously sociology or something like that. One of those departments.
Do you know roughly the year?
Yes. I can remember that.
Well, the number of papers published from that department in that year won’t be very big.
We might have four or five years to go from.
But even so, it wouldn’t be a big task, would it?
And you don’t remember the man’s name, but it ought to stand out, if it’s something about physics, in the title. I think it would be an interesting point to put it in the book.
Yes. It would add something.
Yes. Because I think the more sort of dimensions that you put in a book, like sort of graphic illustrations and evidence from sociological study and all this type of thing, I think it adds to the interest.
While I was working quite seriously during that period, I was also not considering it to necessarily be that important because I was so interested in Krishnamurti, so it didn’t affect me as it might have.
If that had been your sole activity, then it might have thrown you a bit.
Yes. One of the things that came up with language is what I call the real mode. To try to develop a language which would emphasize process through the verb, rather than the noun. That was part of this whole interest of mine. The idea was that our language is too attached to nouns and objects, and this makes it hard to describe process. We have the subject, which is a noun, acting on the object, which is a noun. The verb is only a kind of relation between the subject and the object. Or the subject acting on itself, reflexively. I wanted to make language where the verb was the basic idea, movement, and this would tie in with all the other things I was saying. Perhaps we will discuss that in more detail another time. I worked out this reel [?]. I gave two talks at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, which were quite [???] followed by the...
What year was that?
I can’t remember now, but it could have been when [???] was around. I don’t know.
Between 1965 and 1967 or 1968. I was very interested in the question of thought and why it was so restrictive. It was holding us back in limited ways, and this pattern with Krishnamurti, and the emphasis on how thought was going wrong and making us so much trouble. So one approach was to get more insight into language. This was really inspired by Schumacher and his interest in language. It was unfortunate that Schumacher did not manage to interest Krishnamurti in the language for all around. It would have helped Krishnamurti, and it would have helped Schumacher. You can see that there really is a breakdown of language in physics, between Bohr and Einstein, between those two and Von Neumann, and some of the others. Interpretation has come along. Each one of these interpretations is using basic language in a different way, making different fundamental assumptions, but in effect, some of these various assumptions are dismissed by various physicists, you know, tacitly just as they don’t like the way that the leading physicist said nothing in the causal interpretation.
So the nature of the assumptions they don’t pay attention to.
They’ve their own assumptions and if you remember what was said, this last thing with Demaries [?], something that like violence is the voice of the unheard. That’s a phenomenon in society as a whole, that people pay very little attention to other ways of thinking or people who have different assumptions.
Yes, but the physicists haven’t become violent. Do you mean it was a form of violence for them to be setting up the authorities to suppress people from thinking about such violence?
But that’s violence from the wrong end.
But I meant that we’re not really using rational communication, but they were just simply imposing certain views in a way which didn’t even make any arguments, but just said there’s nothing in it. The only person that ever made an argument was maybe Heisenburg, but it wasn’t a very good one, I think.
You mean if the voice unheard were to face the fact that it was unheard, and understand the situation in which the voice is being unheard, then they would find some other way of approaching the situation other than being violent; whereas you mean what was lacking here was the physicists sitting down and looking calmly at the type of problem they had.
But they were just being kind of uptight about it.
Yes. Naturally, the thing was not as clearly put then as I can do it now. Still, what was called for was to discuss openly rather than to just say, “Don’t listen at all.”
That requires a motivation and interest in the nature of the problem, doesn’t it. But sometimes people lack the motivation because they sort of scare themselves off.
Yes. I think things have gotten more and more complicated. People said that first of all, there’s nothing in it, all the leaders have said so. Then it began to get passed from one generation to another, there’s nothing in it. It became part of the tradition, the way we’ve always thought. Meanwhile, people have gone on to more and more mathematical ways of doing things with super-symmetry and strength and various things, where there’s not only no physical concept, but their connection with the experimental is very distant, too. It may be 20 or 30 years before they can hope to connect with experimental. Somebody was telling me they’d had a meeting over here to celebrate Schrödinger’s anniversary here in the Imperial College, and then talking about all of these silver strings and such. First of all, it’s ironic because Schrödinger would have been the least person. He even said that he was sorry he had anything to do with the quantum theory and the way it turned out because it had given up physical insight.
Did he see physical insight in the idea of the wave equation?
This was something you could visualize.
Yes. That was his purpose in doing it, and then we he saw it, turned the other way. He said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t have anything to do with it.” Then Heisenberg said that what Schrödinger did was rather unimportant, and [???] use technically. The main insight was that you couldn’t visualize it as far as Heisenberg was concerned, and Schrödinger was really quite off the beam in trying to visualize it, but he turned out to produce a useful way of calculating.
But the mathematics were equivalent.
They were. That was a useful way of calculating things, easier to calculate than Heisenberg. But Heisenberg felt his way was the real way that showed the way things were, and Schrödinger was just sort of a useful way of calculating.
In the event, people found Schrödinger’s way of doing things much more fruitful.
Yes. That’s right. But there is some physical insight in there, even though people deny that it’s there.
The mathematics where equivalent. There was really more sort of go in Schrödinger’s approach.
Yes. So they smuggled physical insight in that way. But Schrödinger even said that he was sorry he had anything to do with the whole thing.
I have a vague memory of something about an undergraduate, something about Heisenberg and matrices or something. This didn’t ever mean much to me, and I found this sort of very arid. And then when the Schrödinger thing came along, I could say, “Well, it’s doing this,” and I thought fine. It was that kind of difference. I think I was very attached to thinking in physical terms.
When you finally end up, you can’t really picture the shredding or the wave. You’ll have to picture it as the subtle level rather than a wave in the manifest. The point is that because you couldn’t put it in the manifest level, and because people were saying that if you were going to picture it, it’s got to be in the manifest level. Therefore, it inevitably went to Heisenberg, who said, “No picture. Only formalism.”