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Bohrs philosophy, and the importance of words.

 
 
Edvin
 
Reply Fri 29 Feb, 2008 06:05 am
I'm just trying to clear my head here. Please comment, criticize and ask questions as this is the reason I'm posting this. Smile

Bohr sated that particles can only be described in terms of statistical probability, and could never submit to absolute certainty. The descriptions made by Einstein concerning light corresponded perfectly with the electron in the atom-model by Niels Bohr. Among the condradictions within the new description of light was that it now had the characteristics of both waves and particles. What was it? Particles or waves?

Heisenberg, Bohrs closest correspondent at the time of the quantum physics debate was satisfied with the interpretation of reality that mathmatics gave us. He argued that if Bohr was speaking of a model he must mean something that could be described by classical physics. Ie. If he went beyond this framework, he would, in a strict sense, not know what a model was anymore. The words couldn't make sense. Bohr could not go beyond the frameworks of physics and accept both the wave and particle model. But that is exactly what he went ahead and did. Hence the name of his famous theory/philosophy of complimentarity, which is a way of giving a visualized image of the object (light) using complimentary models that allowed explanation using words, setting them in a context in which it could be understood and verified without the esoteric language of mathmatics.

This is a quote from Henry J. Folses book called The Philosophy of Niels Bohr:

"...Bohr tried to keep the picture while at the same time omitting classical mechanics. He tried to keep the words and the pictures without keeping the meanings of the words of the pictures. Both things are possible in such a situation because your words don't really tackle the things any more. You can't get hold of the things by means of your words, so what shall you do?... Bohr's escape would be into the philosophy of things."

Heisenberg would stick exclusively to mathmatics in his explanation and use diferent schemes to different phenomena. This since he saw that classical physics had its limmits. It could not explain everything. He was content with saying:

"...Since classical physics is not true there, why should we stick so much to these concepts? Why not say just that we cannot use these concepts with a high degree of precision.... and therefore we have to abandon the classical concepts to a certain extent. When we get beyond this range of the classical theory we must realize that our words don't fit. They don't really get a hold in the physical reality and therefore a new mathematical scheme is just as good as anything because the new mathematical scheme then tells what may be there and what may not be there."

Now this is where I think it gets interesting; In order to verify a quantum prediction Bohr insisted that it had to be made in correspondance with the cultural context in which the experiment was performed. I other words, it had to be able to be described with the use of common language. Ie. The philosophy could not be seperated from the physics.

Could one realy say that if a mathematical formulation fails to be explained in a philosophical context one cannot possibly know if it be true or not?

ps: Again, not my views necessarily. Just in desperate need of some other oppinions on the matter Sad
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ltdaleadergt
 
  1  
Reply Fri 29 Feb, 2008 09:22 am
All that I can comment is that light is has both wave and particle property but it is widely believe to be particles. In the terms of cultural index argument he is wrong since mathematics is a universal language and uses the system of logic and statistic to argue its points widely. Therefore I think culture is not an issue!
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Quatl
 
  1  
Reply Fri 29 Feb, 2008 10:58 am
@Edvin,
I would disagree that comfortable words are necessary in order for one to "understand" a phenomenon. A mathematical description can constitute an understanding. It can even have greater utility in many cases than a verbal comprehension would.

QP has mostly given up on verbal explaination, Quantum physicists do use languaege in order to try and pass some of their knowledge on, but they will for the most part tell you that you can not really get it without math. I've often been told that, when it comes to QP, where the words and the math disagree, the mathematics hold the truth over the verbiage.

I definitely sympathize with Bohr though. It is easier for most of us to work with concepts. QP presents some challenges for us that's for certain Smile

Quantum Physics is frustrating for a lot of us because the metaphors we are offered don't satisfy the realities of experiment very well. We still need to call the happenings down there something though, so much terminology remains in play simply for lack of better offerings.

(I actually like the language of Quantum Chromodynamics better, for the reason that it doesn't bother with "familiar" terms at all. Terms like "particle," "wave," and "spin" cause more trouble at times than they are worth I think.)

The key question is often "what is the utility of my understanding."

It still leaves the question, "can philosophy be separated from physics?"

I think the answer is no. But words are not the only descriptive tools we have (I'd argue they are not even the root of our own thought, but that's for another thread.) Math, pictures, models, simulations, and lists are among our many other tools.

One big problem with math is it is less universal than language. There are less folks equipped with the necessary familiarity with math. Another is that we often believe that we are receiving more (and often different) information than we are, from the words we hear. The same is true when "speaking" as well.

Then again, folks like to inject extraneous philosophy in situations where the explanation is unsatisfactory (like the confusing mathematics of QP.) Thus the gymnastics surrounding word based QP explanations.

I am not comfortable with QP's mathematics by any means, so I withhold judgment for the moment as to it's completeness. It is hard to argue with success though, and it is apparently good enough for a lot of very useful work to be done.

It is interesting to me that the strangest descriptions happen right where the math says the least, such as with how/why a probability wave function collapses into a finite reality. Most of the verbal explanations seem to replace one mystery with another. Some (including myself) hope that someday either by math or language (preferably both) someone will discover a satisfying explanation.
Edvin
 
  1  
Reply Fri 29 Feb, 2008 01:32 pm
@Quatl,
Quatl wrote:

Then again, folks like to inject extraneous philosophy in situations where the explanation is unsatisfactory (like the confusing mathematics of QP.) Thus the gymnastics surrounding word based QP explanations.


Yes, I think that was much of Bohrs point. The complimentary model came into being because of these borderline cases where one sees it necessary to add words to the description. But why words? As it was pointed out (maybe it was in your post) There are other methods of description that language, which tends to be very inacurate. Could it be because it is language that is the form of communication that is the most deeply rooted in social convention? That Bohr thaught it had to be exactly that in order to create an analogue which was to be understood by the most people. Just some thoughts Surprised

Quatl wrote:

I am not comfortable with QP's mathematics by any means, so I withhold judgment for the moment as to it's completeness. It is hard to argue with success though, and it is apparently good enough for a lot of very useful work to be done..


Yes, it is as far as I've understood very useful when described mathematicaly. But the moment one tries to wonder outside this framework the words and concepts have no meaning, and here one has to resort to complementarity. But again, any thoughts as to why Bohr insisted on words (within a cultural context) ?

Btw, very informative and clearly written post! Very Happy
Quatl
 
  1  
Reply Fri 29 Feb, 2008 03:21 pm
@Edvin,
Edvin wrote:
But again, any thoughts as to why Bohr insisted on words (within a cultural context) ?


"no body really understands quantum physics."
is a popular quote for a reason. I think most people, even physicists have trouble when they can't wrap their intuition around a problem. I would speculate that Bohr meaning was closer to "intuitive" than verbal/cultural, thought clearly he used the words he did.

I think this is a valid concern.

The problem is that no one has offered an intuitively useful description of QP, most attempts are not satisfactory to me anyway.

Obviously I don't know what he was thinking though Smile
Edvin
 
  1  
Reply Sat 1 Mar, 2008 06:35 am
@Edvin,
From what I understand it is the Copenhagen interpretation of Bohrs philospphy that is one of the leading explanations of the quantum theory today. The reason for this is not because it contributes an more exact mathmatical formulation of QP. It has to be because of the nature of the complemantarity. It helps people visualize the phenomena. A mathmatical formulation is not satisfactory for anybody as long as they cannot explain it to themselves in terms of words. This is another quote from the book on Bohrs philosophy (mentioned above):

"...He in some ways directly suffered from this impossibility to penetrate into this very unanschaulich, unreasonable behavior of nature...."

I think he maybe refeered to the habbit the mathmatical formulations had to avoid being explained in words. Or?
Quatl
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Mar, 2008 08:57 am
@Edvin,
There is a common cognitive phenomena that I find interesting, that I think applies to this. I'm not sure if there are accepted terms to describe this, so I'll just try to muddle through it, I think if you've had the experience you'll know what I'm saying.

When I am thinking about something that I really feel I understand there is a particular sensation of fluidity to the flow of thoughts. It is easy to assimilate related topics into the understanding, and when a connection is made to another problem there is a sort of "satisfaction" that I feel as the "truth" flows between the ideas. There is a sort of "opening" of the mind that is both exciting and revealing. The thoughts flow out very smoothly and new knowledge is formualted in a non verbal manner. I need not translate knowledge I feel this way about into language, until I need to communicate it to another person.

In contrast, when my thoughts are confused, these sensations are replaced with feelings of "blockage," and assimilation with other knowledge doesn't occur. There is a frustration that builds until I begin to converse with myself about it. That is I feel the need to translate the thoughts into language and begin to apply more of a deliberate thought process. The linguistic description becomes a sort of notebook, where I can place ideas to be examined, and manipulated.

Sometimes the linguistic/logical manipulation leads to a breakthrough, usually the form this takes is a reinterpretation of the mental structure with a new metaphor. When an appropriate re-conceptualization is found my thoughts may return to the "happy" pre-verbal form of thinking and assimilation can proceed rapidly again.

But sometimes (As with some Quantum Physics) the each proposed metaphor resolves one "conflict" while birthing another. It's a bit like that story about The Hydra. You chop off one head and two spring up in it's place. The implications cannot be collapsed into a coherent view. I find this state to be profoundly uncomfortable, and I suspect others feel similar.

Now if you are unable to comprehend something after a while you only have a few choices:
Ask someone wise (no help for us there in this case)
Give up for now (my own choice)
Force acceptance of one of the unsatisfactory metaphors and embrace it's implications no mater how nonsensical they appear. (Copenhagen, Many worlds etc..)

I think if I were more invested in the outcome, were I a physicist for example, I'd be more inclined to do the last one. For me wait and see is fine I don't have a personal need to solve this, and at the moment anyway it has proved too hard for me. Smile

The use of verbal thought structures to resolve confusion is a valuable tool, but it doesn't always work. Some people can use math in this way that most of us use language, but I can't Smile

Maybe Bohr had the same problem. I'm reluctant to speculate on his thoughts, and I don't want to put words in his mouth however.
0 Replies
 
Edvin
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Mar, 2008 09:33 am
@Edvin,
Quote:

...there is a sort of "satisfaction" that I feel as the "truth" flows between the ideas.


This is a very crude layout of several theories that deserves its own thread, so I wont go in-debth on it. But it is worth mentioning.

One tends to search after analogues to what one already knows the moment before rationalization takes place. In the ancient mythos-over-logos argument it is stated that all we know is based upon in the ancient myths. If so, it follows logicaly that all is a methaphor, and we tend to build upon that metaphor to avoid shattering or chalenging our comprehension of the world, ie. "We see want we want to see." If you have a thought structure that invites, and unites multiple thoughts your sense of satisfaction could be the feeling of having your theories "confirmed" by your previous analogue experience. In a sense having the feeling of aproaching truth.

This implicates that the hypotheses, or explanations you choose when observing a given phenomena you have prior to explaining it multiple explanations that has been braught to your conciousness by their correspondance with previos experience, of which you choose the ones that suits our previous experience.
0 Replies
 
Quatl
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Mar, 2008 10:06 am
@Edvin,
I don't disagree Smile

The purpose of laying that out was to speculate what Bohr may have been getting at. The quality of conclusions arrived at this way is certainly debatable. I propose this only as a possible source of Bohr's reported dissatisfaction.

Obviously I do often think this way, It's reasonable I think to suspect that I'm not the only one who does.

Are you seeking resolution of the issue in this thread? I was under the impression that you were trying to understand Bohr's experience. Sorry If I misinterpreted your goal.
0 Replies
 
Edvin
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Mar, 2008 10:16 am
@Edvin,
The discussion is going just the way I hoped it would Very Happy

You see, understanding Bohrs experience coincides with the resoloution of his theory. What he felt must have been the motivation for the complimentary theory; To create an analogue to his experience outside mathmatics, which did not correspond with anything outside the frameworks of physics. Which again, I think, does not suply a sufficient mental image to properly understand phenomena. (In the case of QP.)
0 Replies
 
rado
 
  1  
Reply Mon 24 Mar, 2008 11:57 am
@Quatl,
Quatl wrote:
"no body really understands quantum physics."


I think that is because science does not yet understand the fundamental logic of the universe. Therefore it cannot explain that which quantum physics is trying to explain in a way that makes logical sense. But it's actually quite simple and straightforward, if you understand this fundamental universal logic.

There is no difference between micro- and macrocosmos either, or quantum physics and Newtonian physics, as science seems to imply. All can be explained using the same logical model, and Walter Russell does that in his cosmogony. Like he says:

"So simple is this underlying Principle of Creation that I have been enabled, throughout these years, to state it in one paragraph and one octave-wave diagram so simply that every law or theory ever propounded in the past or future by man can be tested by that paragraph and diagram. If they will not fit into this unitary principle they are outside of Natural Law and must be discarded. It will be found that most of even the most fundamental laws and theories of the past and present do not come anywhere near fitting into this underlying principle. They will, therefore, have to be discarded in favor of immortal Truth."

Rado
0 Replies
 
MJA
 
  1  
Reply Wed 26 Mar, 2008 10:23 am
@Edvin,
Edvin wrote:


Bohr stated that particles can only be described in terms of statistical probability, and could never submit to absolute certainty. The descriptions made by Einstein concerning light corresponded perfectly with the electron in the atom-model by Niels Bohr. Among the condradictions within the new description of light was that it now had the characteristics of both waves and particles. What was it? Particles or waves?

Sad


You asked for some thoughts Edvin,
these are mine.

Particles or waves are naturally and truly only equal, one and the same. The flaw in science is measure itself. Science has proven the measure of nature to have no certainty, thus The Uncertainty Principle, quantum mechanics, or as Einstein prefered, "dice." Nature, God, certainty or truth is not probable, uncertain, or dice, but rather most simply immeasurable. Life without the uncertainty of measure is the certainty of nature's truth. E = mc2, Einstein's equation of everything can be reduced to = nature's unifying truth. = is the solution mankind has been looking for. = is the the solution to UFT, TOE, = is the cure. Hello!!!
Nature's truth is more simple than thought.
Particle = wave = energy = mass = equality = truth = unity = freedom = nature = One.
That's everything Pal.Smile

=
MJA
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