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The BEST Book on trying to Understand Quantum Theory
on September 15, 2014
This is probably the best book on the Copenhagen (the standard orthodoxy) approach to quantum mechanics. It was written by the most radical theoretical physicist in the last 70 years. Bohm wrote it when he was teaching at Princeton before Oppenheimer's machination got him thrown out of the US to protect Oppenheimer's own communist background (he was also envious of Bohm's genius). In the 1940s, there were still extensive discussions about what QM means (all the theorists were comfortable with the various equivalent math approaches but were utterly confused.) The rivalry between Bohr/Heisenberg's view (subsequently called the Copenhagen Interpretation) and the views of Schroedinger, Einstein & de Broglie was brutal; each camp accused the other of producing nonsensical interpretations. Ironically, Bohm (who was a sincere admirer of Einstein and Bohr) created this masterpiece that attempted to explicate the vague, ambiguous ramblings of Bohr by using the mathematics of de Broglie and Schroedinger. In fact, as several reviewers have pointed out, all the math you need is Fourier Analysis but this approach smuggles in all the ideas of electrons as waves. So pay a lot of attention at this point.
The problem here is that (as Bohm admits in his preface) this new view requires a dramatic shift in our fundamental conceptual framework (not just of classical mechanics but ordinary language and the western model of reality as isolated things; both of which can be readily visualized and thus "understood"). Bohm believes he has presented wave mechanics in an understandable and imaginative manner. Unfortunately, this new way of looking at reality is exceedingly difficult so that QM today has regressed to its original mathematical formulation, which is now fully acceptable to math-soaked theoretical physicists.
Bohm's solution is to resurrect Heisenberg's "potentia" approach where quantum objects, no longer have fixed properties that we think about at normal times but they change their character depending on how the electron interacts with other matter. This leads to Bohm's conclusion that at the atomic level (or smaller) the world operates as a single, integrated whole. This is the jumping off point for Bohm's later investigations into the 'Implicate Order' that took the rest of his life to explore.
It was Bohm's intent to present the main ideas of quantum theory in non-mathematical terms rather than as some mysterious, axiomatic set of mathematics "that works". Although this is by far (in my personal opinion & I've been studying QM for 50+ years) the best attempt to provide an explanation he cannot overcome the contradiction (physicists call it a "paradox") that a single object (like an electron) cannot simultaneously BE a localized particle and a wave that extends across all of space. In other words, EXISTENCE is the primary property of reality; objects must first exist (somewhere) before two or more may interact together. The wave-function combines implied mutual existence between TWO electrons (one being in a macro-sized measuring device) with the Broglie's periodic interactivity.
None-the-less, I still highly recommend this book. At the very least, your head will have gone to the 'mental gym' for 12 months getting through it & you will learn all the wrinkles. QM is tough - there are no easy short-cuts as many authors imply.
THIS BOOK PUTS THE LIE TO ALL THOSE "SIMPLE" MATHEMATICAL APPROACHES TO QM - IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THIS BOOK, THEN YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND QM.