Art HobsonArt Hobson is a professor emeritus of physics at the University of Arkansas. Hobson has written a remarkable book that tries to clarify the many disagreements about the interpretation of quantum mechanics among physicists, as well as between philosophers of science and pseudoscientists who have written financially very successful books that exploit the apparent mysteries in quantum mechanics. His Tales of the Quantum aims to clarify the relationship between the wave and particle aspects of quantum objects (wave-particle duality), to defend the fundamental randomness in quantum processes (ontological chance), explain how something can be in two places at the same time (but only statistically as Albert Einstein saw), and to understand quantum jumps (which Erwin Schrödinger famously denied along with the existence of spatially localized point particles). Like Schrödinger (and Einstein), Hobson decides in the "particles or fields" debate on the side of fields only. This is of course Einstein's dream of a "unified field theory "and Steven Weinberg's "dream of a final theory" (of fields). Particles are "singularities" that only appear to be discrete objects in what is actually a continuous field. Hobson published a paper in the American Journal of Physics in 2013 entitled "There Are No Particles, There Are Only Fields," reminiscent of Schrödinger's similar 1952 papers - Are There Quantum Jumps?, Part I and Part II. Hobson reflects on Einstein's concern in the 1935 Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox that physics should describe an objective local reality, rather than the "nonlocality" found in the experimental confirmation in recent decades of what Einstein called "spooky action at a distance." Entangled particles apparently show faster-than-light influences between one experiment and a second experiment in a distant "spacelike" separation. Einstein's 1905 special relativity showed that no "causal" effects can connect events outside one another's light cones. Hobson also proposes to resolve the quantum "measurement" problem. He puts "measurement" in quotes because it is often taken to require a "measurer" or a "conscious observer" who "collapses the wave function," namely a physicist working in the lab who makes the measurement. Hobson says correctly that measurement is everywhere; it's the link between the quantum and the macroscopic [classical] world." (p.191.) John Bell sarcastically asked whether the observer must have a Ph.D. Hobson uses the diabolical "Schrödinger's Cat" experiment to explain "measurement" as well as the "superposition principle" that underlies "being in two places at the same time." He also discusses the problem of measurement from the decoherence point of view, in which "nothing ever happens" without a "collapse" of the universal wave function. Decoherentists sometimes describe the problem of measurement as "never seeing any macroscopic superpositions." In the Stern-Gerlach experiment, Hobson describes the recombination of the two electron beams as a reversible process and thus not increasing the entropy. But no measurement has been made without detection of one or both electrons, so there is nothing to reverse? Hobson also tackles the difficult problem of macroscopic irreversibility (the increase in global entropy demanded by the second law of thermodynamics) with the assumed microscopic reversibility of atomic and molecular collisions. The book has several excellent illustrations to explain the puzzling experimental observations. Hobson covers the full range of important quantum processes with this highly readable account.
ReferencesQuantum Measurements No Particles, Only Fields Response to van Kampen Schrödinger's Cat Normal | Teacher | Scholar