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Tit_Heisenberg indeterminacy principle

The mental impact of Heisenberg's indeterminacy principle

seminar room from group Science, Reason and Faith.
Juan Luis Lorda. 21 December 2010.

outline of the intervention

1. Introduction: determinism in physics

Einstein: physical theories have assumed assumptions that are not always obvious.
Classical physics (Aristotle): things have a nature that determines them.
Newton: amazing finding of stable mathematical relationship (laws) that explain all the behaviour of the "sky" and the attraction of the "earth"; the world works like a clock, with known laws that we possess.

Laplace: we can calculate everything if we know the initial data (determinism).

Two issues:

  • the "earth" is not as simple as the "sky": biology, etc.

  • how to explain freedom, if everything is subject determined by mathematical laws.

2. Billiard balls and classical mechanics

A ball game works according to Newton's laws, but it can get complicated.

  • interactions, friction, etc.... exponential mathematical complexity.

  • starting points: the "butterfly" effect (Lorenz).

  • emergent properties: the whole is greater than the sum.

Also, in atomic physics, problems of size, quantity, interaction, etc.

  • leading to a statistical treatment.

  • with "spontaneity" phenomena (radioactive materials: which one disintegrates?).

Naive interpretation of the Principle: measuring interferes with what is measured.
Less naive interpretation: if there is spontaneity and statistics, there is no determinism.

3. The principle of indeterminacy

Quantum mechanics is born: Planck: energy is in discrete quantities (quanta).
Einstein defines the "photon" (1905), and the wave/corpuscle duality of light is arrived at.
Rutherford (with Bohr) arrives at model "planetary", with "stationary" orbits.
In the analysis of the spectrum (of hydrogen), Bohr calculates electron orbits.
Heisenberg, (1926) prepares a mathematical model of the atom, without representation , then represents it with matrices (with Jordan and Pauli).

De Broglie proposes that all particles (not just photon) have associated wave.
Schrödinger calculates that of the electron: is it a charge distribution? No, probability.
Pauli and Jordan establish transformation between Schrödinger equation and matrices.
Heisenberg (1927) arrives at the Indeterminacy Principle.

4. The interpretation of the principle

V meeting Solvay 1927, with two positions:
group Copenhaque (Bohr, Pauli, Heisenberg): it is indeterminacy in reality.
Einstein, Schrödinger, Ehrenfels: realism.

  • The Principle relates two measurement variances (location and velocity (momentum)).

  • Based on a statistical distribution, which gives a range of possibilities.

  • But about a reality that has spontaneous and indeterminate phenomena.

5. Application of the principle to theories of consciousness.

Roger Penrose: artificial intelligence is wrong (The Emperor's Mind)
There must be a "quantum" basis: (Hameroff's microtubules) (Shadows of the mind)
Constant influence of Ben Libet's experiments: the brain decides for us.

6. Final considerations

Freedom needs Degrees of mechanical freedom to act on the world.
It is indeterminate, but it is not just indeterminacy, it is creativity.
It is not decided between equal positions, but created by putting reason.