Physics is mystical !

posted Nov 25, 2017, 4:51 PM by Abhishek Ojha   [ updated Nov 25, 2017, 4:51 PM ]

Physics is mystical. I am sure it is mystical for those who actually derive the equations but it is also for those who don't want to go into those details... outside the exams and textbooks the 'physics in words’. 'Elegant Universe’ is an amazing book in that sense, halfway through the book and I am already searching for similar books… 

“In 1965, Richard Feynman, one of the greatest practitioners of quantum mechanics, wrote, There was a time when the newspapers said that only twelve men understood the theory of relativity. I do not believe there ever was such a time. There might have been a time when only one man did because he was the only guy who caught on, before he wrote his paper. But after people read the paper a lot of people understood the theory of relativity in one way or other, certainly more than twelve. On the other hand I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.

Although Feynman expressed this view more than three decades ago, it applies equally well today. What he meant is that although the special and general theories of relativity require a drastic revision of previous ways of seeing the world, when one fully accepts the basic principles underlying them, the new and unfamiliar implications for space and time follow directly from careful logical reasoning. [….] Quantum mechanics is different. By 1928 or so, many of the mathematical formulas and rules of quantum mechanics had been put in place and, ever since, it has been used to make the most precise and successful numerical predictions in the history of science. But in a real sense those who use quantum mechanics find themselves following rules and formulas laid down by the "founding fathers" of the theory—“calculational procedures that are straightforward to carry out—without really understanding why the procedures work or what they really mean. Unlike relativity, few if any people ever grasp quantum mechanics at a "soulful" level.

What are we to make of this? Does it mean that on a microscopic level the universe operates in ways so obscure and unfamiliar that the human mind, evolved over eons to cope with phenomena on familiar everyday scales, is unable to fully grasp "what really goes on"? Or, might it be that through historical accident physicists have constructed an extremely awkward formulation of quantum mechanics that, although quantitatively successful, obfuscates the true nature of reality? No one knows. Maybe some time in the future some clever person will see clear to a new formulation that will fully reveal the "whys" and the "whats" of quantum.

[…]“At this point your classical upbringing is balking: How can one electron simultaneously take different paths—and no less than an infinite number of them? This seems like a defensible objection, but quantum mechanics—the physics of our world—requires that you hold such pedestrian complaints in abeyance. The result of calculations using Feynman's approach agree with those of the wave function method, which agree with experiments. You must allow nature to dictate what is and what is not sensible. As Feynman once wrote, "[Quantum mechanics] describes nature as absurd from the point of view of common sense. And it fully agrees with experiment. So I hope you can accept nature as She is—absurd."

[…] “Niels Bohr, one of the central pioneers of quantum theory and one of its strongest proponents, once remarked that if you do not get dizzy sometimes when you think about quantum mechanics, then you have not really understood it.”

Excerpts From: Brian Greene. “The Elegant Universe.”