Copenhagen interpretation

Copenhagen interpretation

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The Copenhagen interpretation is one of the earliest and most commonly taught interpretations of quantum mechanics. It holds that quantum mechanics does not yield a description of an objective reality but deals only with probabilities of observing, or measuring, various aspects of energy quanta, entities which fit neither the classical idea of particles nor the classical idea of waves. According to the interpretation, the act of measurement causes the set of probabilities to immediately and randomly assume only one of the possible values. This feature of the mathematics is known as wavefunction collapse
Wavefunction collapse
In quantum mechanics, wave function collapse is the phenomenon in which a wave function—initially in a superposition of several different possible eigenstates—appears to reduce to a single one of those states after interaction with an observer...

. The essential concepts of the interpretation were devised by Niels Bohr
Niels Bohr
Niels Henrik David Bohr was a Danish physicist who made foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. Bohr mentored and collaborated with many of the top physicists of the century at his institute in...

, Werner Heisenberg
Werner Heisenberg
Werner Karl Heisenberg was a German theoretical physicist who made foundational contributions to quantum mechanics and is best known for asserting the uncertainty principle of quantum theory...

 and others in the years 1924–27.

Background


Classical physics draws a distinction between particles and energy, holding that only the latter exhibit waveform characteristics, whereas quantum mechanics
Quantum mechanics
Quantum mechanics, also known as quantum physics or quantum theory, is a branch of physics providing a mathematical description of much of the dual particle-like and wave-like behavior and interactions of energy and matter. It departs from classical mechanics primarily at the atomic and subatomic...

 is based on the observation that matter has both wave and particle aspects and postulates that the state of every subatomic particle
Elementary particle
In particle physics, an elementary particle or fundamental particle is a particle not known to have substructure; that is, it is not known to be made up of smaller particles. If an elementary particle truly has no substructure, then it is one of the basic building blocks of the universe from which...

 can be described by a wavefunction
Wavefunction
Not to be confused with the related concept of the Wave equationA wave function or wavefunction is a probability amplitude in quantum mechanics describing the quantum state of a particle and how it behaves. Typically, its values are complex numbers and, for a single particle, it is a function of...

—a mathematical representation used to calculate the probability that the particle, if measured, will be in a given location or state of motion.

In the early work of Max Planck
Max Planck
Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck, ForMemRS, was a German physicist who actualized the quantum physics, initiating a revolution in natural science and philosophy. He is regarded as the founder of the quantum theory, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918.-Life and career:Planck came...

, Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics and one of the most prolific intellects in human history...

 and Niels Bohr
Niels Bohr
Niels Henrik David Bohr was a Danish physicist who made foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. Bohr mentored and collaborated with many of the top physicists of the century at his institute in...

, the existence of energy in discrete quantities had been postulated, in order to avoid certain paradoxes that arise when classical physics is pushed to extremes. Also, while elementary particles showed predictable properties in many experiments, they became highly unpredictable in certain contexts, for example, if one attempted to measure their individual trajectories through a simple physical apparatus.

The Copenhagen
Copenhagen
Copenhagen is the capital and largest city of Denmark, with an urban population of 1,199,224 and a metropolitan population of 1,930,260 . With the completion of the transnational Øresund Bridge in 2000, Copenhagen has become the centre of the increasingly integrating Øresund Region...

 interpretation is an attempt to explain the mathematical formulations of quantum mechanics and the corresponding experimental results. Early twentieth-century experiment
Experiment
An experiment is a methodical procedure carried out with the goal of verifying, falsifying, or establishing the validity of a hypothesis. Experiments vary greatly in their goal and scale, but always rely on repeatable procedure and logical analysis of the results...

s on the physics
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

 of very small-scale phenomena
Phenomenon
A phenomenon , plural phenomena, is any observable occurrence. Phenomena are often, but not always, understood as 'appearances' or 'experiences'...

 led to the discovery of phenomena which could not be predicted on the basis of classical physics
Classical physics
What "classical physics" refers to depends on the context. When discussing special relativity, it refers to the Newtonian physics which preceded relativity, i.e. the branches of physics based on principles developed before the rise of relativity and quantum mechanics...

, and to the development of new models (theories) that described and predicted very accurately these micro-scale phenomena. These models could not easily be reconciled with the way objects are observed to behave on the macro scale of everyday life. The predictions they offered often appeared counter-intuitive and caused much consternation among the physicists—often including their discoverers.

Origin of the term


Werner Heisenberg had been an assistant to Niels Bohr at his institute in Copenhagen
Copenhagen
Copenhagen is the capital and largest city of Denmark, with an urban population of 1,199,224 and a metropolitan population of 1,930,260 . With the completion of the transnational Øresund Bridge in 2000, Copenhagen has become the centre of the increasingly integrating Øresund Region...

 during part of the 1920's, when they helped originate quantum mechanical theory. In 1929, Heisenberg gave a series of invited lectures at the University of Chicago, explaining the new field of quantum mechanics. The lectures then served as the basis for his textbook, The Physical Principles of the Quantum Theory, published in 1930. In the book's preface, Heisenberg wrote:

On the whole the book contains nothing that is not to be found in previous publications, particularly in the investigations of Bohr. The purpose of the book seems to me to be fulfilled if it contributes somewhat to the diffusion of that 'Kopenhagener Geist der Quantentheorie' [i.e., Copenhagen spirit of quantum theory] if I may so express myself, which has directed the entire development of modern atomic physics.


After rival interpretations had been developed (e.g., by David Bohm
David Bohm
David Joseph Bohm FRS was an American-born British quantum physicist who contributed to theoretical physics, philosophy, neuropsychology, and the Manhattan Project.-Youth and college:...

, Friedrich Bopp
Friedrich Bopp
Friedrich Arnold Bopp was a German theoretical physicist who contributed to nuclear physics and quantum field theory. He worked at the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institut für Physik and with the Uranverein. He was a professor at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and a President of the Deutsche...

, and Imre Fényes) in the 1950's, Heisenberg termed the original interpretation the "Copenhagen interpretation" in a series of lectures he delivered in 1955. The lectures were later published in Heisenberg's book Physics and Philosophy.

Principles


Because it consists of the views developed by a number of scientists and philosophers during the second quarter of the 20th Century, there is no definitive statement of the Copenhagen Interpretation. Thus, various ideas have been associated with it; Asher Peres
Asher Peres
Asher Peres was an Israeli physicist, considered a pioneer in quantum information theory. According to his autobiography, he was born in Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne in France, where his father, a Polish electrical engineer, had found work laying down power lines...

 remarked that very different, sometimes opposite, views are presented as "the Copenhagen interpretation" by different authors. Nonetheless, there are several basic principles that are generally accepted as being part of the interpretation:
  1. A system is completely described by a wave function
    Schrödinger equation
    The Schrödinger equation was formulated in 1926 by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger. Used in physics , it is an equation that describes how the quantum state of a physical system changes in time....

    , representing the state of the system.
  2. The description of nature is essentially probabilistic, with the probability of an event related to the square of the amplitude of the wave function related to it. (The Born rule
    Born rule
    The Born rule is a law of quantum mechanics which gives the probability that a measurement on a quantum system will yield a given result. It is named after its originator, the physicist Max Born. The Born rule is one of the key principles of quantum mechanics...

    , after Max Born
    Max Born
    Max Born was a German-born physicist and mathematician who was instrumental in the development of quantum mechanics. He also made contributions to solid-state physics and optics and supervised the work of a number of notable physicists in the 1920s and 30s...

    )
  3. It is not possible to know the value of all the properties of the system at the same time; those properties that are not known with precision must be described by probabilities. (Heisenberg's uncertainty principle)
  4. Matter exhibits a wave–particle duality
    Wave–particle duality
    Wave–particle duality postulates that all particles exhibit both wave and particle properties. A central concept of quantum mechanics, this duality addresses the inability of classical concepts like "particle" and "wave" to fully describe the behavior of quantum-scale objects...

    . An experiment can show the particle-like properties of matter, or the wave-like properties; in some experiments both of these complementary viewpoints must be invoked to explain the results, according to the complementarity principle of Niels Bohr
    Niels Bohr
    Niels Henrik David Bohr was a Danish physicist who made foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. Bohr mentored and collaborated with many of the top physicists of the century at his institute in...

    .
  5. Measuring devices are essentially classical devices, and measure only classical properties such as position and momentum.
  6. The quantum mechanical description of large systems will closely approximate the classical description. (The correspondence principle
    Correspondence principle
    In physics, the correspondence principle states that the behavior of systems described by the theory of quantum mechanics reproduces classical physics in the limit of large quantum numbers....

     of Bohr and Heisenberg.)

Meaning of the wave function


The Copenhagen Interpretation denies that the wave function is anything more than a theoretical concept, or is at least non-committal about its being a discrete entity or a discernible component of some discrete entity.

The subjective view, that the wave function is merely a mathematical tool for calculating the probabilities in a specific experiment, is a similar approach to the Ensemble interpretation
Ensemble Interpretation
The ensemble interpretation, or statistical interpretation of quantum mechanics, is an interpretation that can be viewed as a minimalist interpretation; it is a quantum mechanical interpretation that claims to make the fewest assumptions associated with the standard mathematical formalization...

.

There are some who say that there are objective variants of the Copenhagen Interpretation that allow for a "real" wave function, but it is questionable whether that view is really consistent with logical positivism
Logical positivism
Logical positivism is a philosophy that combines empiricism—the idea that observational evidence is indispensable for knowledge—with a version of rationalism incorporating mathematical and logico-linguistic constructs and deductions of epistemology.It may be considered as a type of analytic...

 and/or with some of Bohr's statements. Bohr emphasized that science is concerned with predictions of the outcomes of experiments, and that any additional propositions offered are not scientific but meta-physical. Bohr was heavily influenced by positivism. On the other hand, Bohr and Heisenberg were not in complete agreement, and they held different views at different times. Heisenberg in particular was prompted to move towards realism
Philosophical realism
Contemporary philosophical realism is the belief that our reality, or some aspect of it, is ontologically independent of our conceptual schemes, linguistic practices, beliefs, etc....

.

Even if the wave function is not regarded as real, there is still a divide between those who treat it as definitely and entirely subjective, and those who are non-committal or agnostic about the subject. An example of the agnostic view
Agnosticism
Agnosticism is the view that the truth value of certain claims—especially claims about the existence or non-existence of any deity, but also other religious and metaphysical claims—is unknown or unknowable....

 is given by Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker
Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker
Carl Friedrich Freiherr von Weizsäcker was a German physicist and philosopher. He was the longest-living member of the research team which performed nuclear research in Germany during the Second World War, under Werner Heisenberg's leadership...

, who, while participating in a colloquium at Cambridge, denied that the Copenhagen interpretation asserted: "What cannot be observed does not exist." He suggested instead that the Copenhagen interpretation follows the principle: "What is observed certainly exists; about what is not observed we are still free to make suitable assumptions. We use that freedom to avoid paradoxes."

Nature of collapse


All versions of the Copenhagen interpretation include at least a formal or methodological version of wave function collapse, in which unobserved eigenvalues are removed from further consideration. (In other words, Copenhagenists have always made the assumption of collapse, even in the early days of quantum physics, in the way that adherents of the Many-worlds interpretation
Many-worlds interpretation
The many-worlds interpretation is an interpretation of quantum mechanics that asserts the objective reality of the universal wavefunction, but denies the actuality of wavefunction collapse. Many-worlds implies that all possible alternative histories and futures are real, each representing an...

 have not.) In more prosaic terms, those who hold to the Copenhagen understanding are willing to say that a wave function involves the various probabilities that a given event will proceed to certain different outcomes. But when one or another of those more- or less-likely outcomes becomes manifest the other probabilities cease to have any function in the real world. So if an electron passes through a double slit apparatus
Double-slit experiment
The double-slit experiment, sometimes called Young's experiment, is a demonstration that matter and energy can display characteristics of both waves and particles...

 there are various probabilities for where on the detection screen that individual electron will hit. But once it has hit, there is no longer any probability whatsoever that it will hit somewhere else. Many-worlds interpretations say that an electron hits wherever there is a possibility that it might hit, and that each of these hits occurs in a separate universe.

An adherent of the subjective view, that the wave function represents nothing but knowledge, would take an equally subjective view of "collapse".

Some argue that the concept of the collapse of a "real" wave function was introduced by Heisenberg and later developed by John Von Neumann
John von Neumann
John von Neumann was a Hungarian-American mathematician and polymath who made major contributions to a vast number of fields, including set theory, functional analysis, quantum mechanics, ergodic theory, geometry, fluid dynamics, economics and game theory, computer science, numerical analysis,...

 in 1932.

Acceptance among physicists


According to a poll at a Quantum Mechanics workshop in 1997, the Copenhagen interpretation is the most widely-accepted specific interpretation of quantum mechanics, followed by the many-worlds interpretation
Many-worlds interpretation
The many-worlds interpretation is an interpretation of quantum mechanics that asserts the objective reality of the universal wavefunction, but denies the actuality of wavefunction collapse. Many-worlds implies that all possible alternative histories and futures are real, each representing an...

. Although current trends show substantial competition from alternative interpretations
Interpretation of quantum mechanics
An interpretation of quantum mechanics is a set of statements which attempt to explain how quantum mechanics informs our understanding of nature. Although quantum mechanics has held up to rigorous and thorough experimental testing, many of these experiments are open to different interpretations...

, throughout much of the twentieth century the Copenhagen interpretation had strong acceptance among physicists. Astrophysicist and science writer John Gribbin
John Gribbin
John R. Gribbin is a British science writer and a visiting Fellow in astronomy at the University of Sussex.- Biography :John Gribbin graduated with his bachelor's degree in physics from the University of Sussex in 1966. Gribbin then earned his master of science degree in astronomy in 1967, also...

 describes it as having fallen from primacy after the 1980s.

Consequences


The nature of the Copenhagen Interpretation is exposed by considering a number of experiments and paradoxes.

1. Schrödinger's Cat
Schrödinger's cat
Schrödinger's cat is a thought experiment, usually described as a paradox, devised by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935. It illustrates what he saw as the problem of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics applied to everyday objects. The scenario presents a cat that might be...

This thought experiment
Thought experiment
A thought experiment or Gedankenexperiment considers some hypothesis, theory, or principle for the purpose of thinking through its consequences...

 highlights the implications that accepting uncertainty at the microscopic level has on macroscopic objects. A cat is put in a sealed box, with its life or death made dependent on the state of a subatomic particle. Thus a description of the cat during the course of the experiment—having been entangled with the state of a subatomic particle—becomes a "blur" of "living and dead cat." But this can't be accurate because it implies the cat is actually both dead and alive until the box is opened to check on it. But the cat, if he survives, will only remember being alive. Schrödinger resists "so naively accepting as valid a 'blurred model' for representing reality." How can the cat be both alive and dead?

The Copenhagen Interpretation: The wave function reflects our knowledge of the system. The wave function means that, once the cat is observed, there is a 50% chance it will be dead, and 50% chance it will be alive.


2. Wigner's Friend
Wigner's friend
Wigner's friend is a thought experiment proposed by the physicist Eugene Wigner; it is an extension of the Schrödinger's cat experiment designed as a point of departure for discussing the Quantum mind/body problem.- The thought experiment :...

Wigner puts his friend in with the cat. The external observer believes the system is in the state . His friend however is convinced that cat is alive, i.e. for him, the cat is in the state . How can Wigner and his friend see different wave functions?

The Copenhagen Interpretation: Wigner's friend highlights the subjective nature of probability. Each observer (Wigner and his friend) has different information and therefore different wave functions. The distinction between the "objective" nature of reality and the subjective nature of probability has led to a great deal of controversy. Cf. Bayesian
Bayesian probability
Bayesian probability is one of the different interpretations of the concept of probability and belongs to the category of evidential probabilities. The Bayesian interpretation of probability can be seen as an extension of logic that enables reasoning with propositions, whose truth or falsity is...

 versus Frequentist
Frequency probability
Frequency probability is the interpretation of probability that defines an event's probability as the limit of its relative frequency in a large number of trials. The development of the frequentist account was motivated by the problems and paradoxes of the previously dominant viewpoint, the...

 interpretations of probability.


3. Double-Slit
Double-slit experiment
The double-slit experiment, sometimes called Young's experiment, is a demonstration that matter and energy can display characteristics of both waves and particles...

 Diffraction
Diffraction
Diffraction refers to various phenomena which occur when a wave encounters an obstacle. Italian scientist Francesco Maria Grimaldi coined the word "diffraction" and was the first to record accurate observations of the phenomenon in 1665...

Light passes through double slits and onto a screen resulting in a diffraction pattern. Is light a particle or a wave?

The Copenhagen Interpretation: Light is neither. A particular experiment can demonstrate particle (photon) or wave properties, but not both at the same time (Bohr's Complementarity Principle
Complementarity (physics)
In physics, complementarity is a basic principle of quantum theory proposed by Niels Bohr, closely identified with the Copenhagen interpretation, and refers to effects such as the wave–particle duality...

).

The same experiment can in theory be performed with any physical system: electrons, protons, atoms, molecules, viruses, bacteria, cats, humans, elephants, planets, etc. In practice it has been performed for light, electrons, buckminsterfullerene
Buckminsterfullerene
Buckminsterfullerene is a spherical fullerene molecule with the formula . It was first intentionally prepared in 1985 by Harold Kroto, James Heath, Sean O'Brien, Robert Curl and Richard Smalley at Rice University...

, and some atoms. Due to the smallness of Planck's constant it is practically impossible to realize experiments that directly reveal the wave nature of any system bigger than a few atoms but, in general, quantum mechanics considers all matter as possessing both particle and wave behaviors. The greater systems (like viruses, bacteria, cats, etc.) are considered as "classical" ones but only as an approximation, not exact.


4. EPR (Einstein–Podolsky–Rosen) paradox
EPR paradox
The EPR paradox is a topic in quantum physics and the philosophy of science concerning the measurement and description of microscopic systems by the methods of quantum physics...

Entangled "particles" are emitted in a single event. Conservation laws ensure that the measured spin of one particle must be the opposite of the measured spin of the other, so that if the spin of one particle is measured, the spin of the other particle is now instantaneously known. The most discomforting aspect of this paradox is that the effect is instantaneous so that something that happens in one galaxy could cause an instantaneous change in another galaxy. But, according to Einstein's theory of special relativity
Special relativity
Special relativity is the physical theory of measurement in an inertial frame of reference proposed in 1905 by Albert Einstein in the paper "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies".It generalizes Galileo's...

, no information-bearing signal or entity can travel at or faster than the speed of light
Speed of light
The speed of light in vacuum, usually denoted by c, is a physical constant important in many areas of physics. Its value is 299,792,458 metres per second, a figure that is exact since the length of the metre is defined from this constant and the international standard for time...

, which is finite. Thus, it seems as if the Copenhagen interpretation is inconsistent with special relativity.

The Copenhagen Interpretation: Assuming wave functions are not real, wave-function collapse is interpreted subjectively. The moment one observer measures the spin of one particle, he knows the spin of the other. However, another observer cannot benefit until the results of that measurement have been relayed to him, at less than or equal to the speed of light.

Copenhagenists claim that interpretations of quantum mechanics where the wave function is regarded as real have problems with EPR-type effects, since they imply that the laws of physics allow for influences to propagate at speeds greater than the speed of light. However, proponents of Many worlds and the Transactional interpretation
Transactional interpretation
The transactional interpretation of quantum mechanics describes quantum interactions in terms of a standing wave formed by retarded and advanced waves. It was first proposed in 1986 by John G...

 (TI) maintain that Copenhagen interpretation is fatally non-local.

The claim that EPR effects violate the principle that information cannot travel faster than the speed of light have been countered by noting that they cannot be used for signaling because neither observer can control, or predetermine, what he observes, and therefore cannot manipulate what the other observer measures. However, it should be noted that is a somewhat spurious argument, in that speed of light limitations applies to all information, not to what can or can not be subsequently done with the information.

A further argument is that relativistic difficulties about establishing which measurement occurred first also undermine the idea that one observer is causing what the other is measuring. This is totally spurious, since no matter who measured first the other will measure the opposite spin despite the fact that (in theory) the other has a 50% 'probability' (50:50 chance) of measuring the same spin, unless data about the first spin measurement has somehow passed faster than light (of course TI gets around the light speed limit by having information travel backwards in time instead).

Criticism


The completeness of quantum mechanics (thesis 1) was attacked by the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen thought experiment
EPR paradox
The EPR paradox is a topic in quantum physics and the philosophy of science concerning the measurement and description of microscopic systems by the methods of quantum physics...

 which was intended to show that quantum physics could not be a complete theory.

Experimental tests of
Bell test experiments
The Bell test experiments serve to investigate the validity of the entanglement effect in quantum mechanics by using some kind of Bell inequality...

 Bell's inequality using particles have supported the quantum mechanical prediction of entanglement.

The Copenhagen Interpretation gives special status to measurement processes without clearly defining them or explaining their peculiar effects. In his article entitled "Criticism and Counterproposals to the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Theory," countering the view of Alexandrov that (in Heisenberg's paraphrase) "the wave function in configuration space characterizes the objective state of the electron." Heisenberg says,
Many physicist
Physicist
A physicist is a scientist who studies or practices physics. Physicists study a wide range of physical phenomena in many branches of physics spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic particles of which all ordinary matter is made to the behavior of the material Universe as a whole...

s and philosophers have objected to the Copenhagen interpretation, both on the grounds that it is non-deterministic and that it includes an undefined measurement process that converts probability functions into non-probabilistic measurements. Einstein's
Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics and one of the most prolific intellects in human history...

 comments "I, at any rate, am convinced that He (God) does not throw dice." and "Do you really think the moon isn't there if you aren't looking at it?" exemplify this. Bohr, in response, said "Einstein, don't tell God what to do".

Steven Weinberg
Steven Weinberg
Steven Weinberg is an American theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate in Physics for his contributions with Abdus Salam and Sheldon Glashow to the unification of the weak force and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles....

 in "Einstein's Mistakes", Physics Today
Physics Today
Physics Today, created in 1948, is the membership journal of the American Institute of Physics. It is provided to 130,000 members of twelve physics societies, including the American Physical Society...

, November 2005, page 31, said:
The problem of thinking in terms of classical measurements of a quantum system becomes particularly acute in the field of quantum cosmology
Quantum cosmology
In theoretical physics, quantum cosmology is a field attempting to study the effect of quantum mechanics on the formation of the universe, or its early evolution, especially just after the Big Bang...

, where the quantum system is the universe.

E. T. Jaynes, from a Bayesian point of view, pointed out probability is a measure of human's information about the physical world. Quantum mechanics under Copenhagen Interpretation interpreted probability as a physical phenomenon, which is what Jaynes called a Mind Projection Fallacy. A similar view is adopted in Quantum Information Theories.

Alternatives



The Ensemble interpretation
Ensemble Interpretation
The ensemble interpretation, or statistical interpretation of quantum mechanics, is an interpretation that can be viewed as a minimalist interpretation; it is a quantum mechanical interpretation that claims to make the fewest assumptions associated with the standard mathematical formalization...

 is similar; it offers an interpretation of the wave function, but not for single particles. The consistent histories
Consistent histories
In quantum mechanics, the consistent histories approach is intended to give a modern interpretation of quantum mechanics, generalising the conventional Copenhagen interpretation and providing a natural interpretation of quantum cosmology...

 interpretation advertises itself as "Copenhagen done right". Although the Copenhagen interpretation is often confused with the idea that consciousness causes collapse, it defines an "observer" merely as that which collapses the wave function.

If the wave function is regarded as ontologically real, and collapse is entirely rejected, a many worlds theory results. If wave function collapse is regarded as ontologically real as well, an objective collapse theory
Objective collapse theory
Objective collapse theories are an approach to the interpretational problems of quantum mechanics. They are realistic, indeterministic and reject hidden variables...

 is obtained. Dropping the principle that the wave function is a complete description results in a hidden variable theory.

Many physicists have subscribed to the instrumentalist interpretation
Instrumentalism
In the philosophy of science, instrumentalism is the view that a scientific theory is a useful instrument in understanding the world. A concept or theory should be evaluated by how effectively it explains and predicts phenomena, as opposed to how accurately it describes objective...

 of quantum mechanics, a position often equated with eschewing all interpretation. It is summarized by the sentence "Shut up and calculate!". While this slogan is sometimes attributed to Paul Dirac
Paul Dirac
Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac, OM, FRS was an English theoretical physicist who made fundamental contributions to the early development of both quantum mechanics and quantum electrodynamics...

 or Richard Feynman
Richard Feynman
Richard Phillips Feynman was an American physicist known for his work in the path integral formulation of quantum mechanics, the theory of quantum electrodynamics and the physics of the superfluidity of supercooled liquid helium, as well as in particle physics...

, it is in fact due to David Mermin
David Mermin
Nathaniel David Mermin is a solid-state physicist at Cornell University best known for the eponymous Mermin-Wagner theorem and his application of the term "Boojum" to superfluidity, and for the quote "Shut up and calculate!"Together with Neil W...

.

See also

  • Afshar experiment
    Afshar experiment
    The Afshar experiment is an optical experiment, devised and carried out by Shahriar Afshar in 2001, which investigates the principle of complementarity in quantum mechanics...

  • Bohr–Einstein debates
    Bohr–Einstein debates
    The Bohr–Einstein debates were a series of public disputes about quantum mechanics between Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr, who were two of its founders. Their debates are remembered because of their importance to the philosophy of science. An account of them has been written by Bohr in an article...

  • Consciousness causes collapse
  • Consistent histories
    Consistent histories
    In quantum mechanics, the consistent histories approach is intended to give a modern interpretation of quantum mechanics, generalising the conventional Copenhagen interpretation and providing a natural interpretation of quantum cosmology...

  • Ensemble interpretation
    Ensemble Interpretation
    The ensemble interpretation, or statistical interpretation of quantum mechanics, is an interpretation that can be viewed as a minimalist interpretation; it is a quantum mechanical interpretation that claims to make the fewest assumptions associated with the standard mathematical formalization...

  • Fifth Solvay Conference
  • Interpretation of quantum mechanics
    Interpretation of quantum mechanics
    An interpretation of quantum mechanics is a set of statements which attempt to explain how quantum mechanics informs our understanding of nature. Although quantum mechanics has held up to rigorous and thorough experimental testing, many of these experiments are open to different interpretations...

  • Philosophical interpretation of classical physics
    Philosophical interpretation of classical physics
    Classical Newtonian physics has, formally, been replaced by quantum mechanics on the small scale and relativity on the large scale. Because most humans continue to think in terms of the kind of events we perceive in the human scale of daily life, it became necessary to provide a new philosophical...

  • Physical ontology
  • Popper's experiment
    Popper's experiment
    Popper's experiment is an experiment proposed by the 20th century philosopher of science Karl Popper, an advocate of an objective interpretation of quantum mechanics. He wanted to test the Copenhagen interpretation, a popular subjectivist interpretation of quantum mechanics...

  • De Broglie–Bohm theory

Further reading

  • G. Weihs et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 81 (1998) 5039
  • M. Rowe et al., Nature 409 (2001) 791.
  • J.A. Wheeler & W.H. Zurek (eds), Quantum Theory and Measurement, Princeton University Press 1983
  • A. Petersen, Quantum Physics and the Philosophical Tradition, MIT Press 1968
  • H. Margeneau, The Nature of Physical Reality, McGraw-Hill 1950
  • M. Chown, Forever Quantum, New Scientist No. 2595 (2007) 37.
  • T. Schürmann, A Single Particle Uncertainty Relation, Acta Physica Polonica B39 (2008) 587. http://th-www.if.uj.edu.pl/acta/vol39/pdf/v39p0587.pdf

External links