Quantum mechanics writ large
Author(s)Bush, John W. M.
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Some two centuries before the quantum revolution, Newton (1) suggested that corpuscles of light generate waves in an aethereal medium like skipping stones generate waves in water, with their motion then being affected by these aether waves. Times have changed. Light corpuscles are now known as photons, and the majority of physicists have dispensed with the notion of aether. Nevertheless, certain features of Newton's metaphor live on in one particular version of quantum mechanics. According to pilot wave theory, first proposed by de Broglie (2) and later developed by Bohm (3) with Einstein's encouragement, microscopic elements such as photons and electrons consist of both particle and wave, the former being guided by the latter. Although this physical picture has not been widely accepted, it has had some notable proponents, including Bell (4). Its principal appeal is that it restores realism and determinism to quantum mechanics, its weakness that the physical nature of the guiding wave field remains unclear. At the time that pilot wave theory was developed and then overtaken by the Copenhagen interpretation as the standard view of quantum mechanics, there was no macroscopic pilot wave analog to draw upon. Now there is.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Mathematics
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
National Academy of Sciences (U.S.)
Bush, J. W. M. “Quantum mechanics writ large.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107, no. 41 (October 12, 2010): 17455-17456.
Final published version