Videnskabshistorisk Selskab

Christoph Lehner,
Max Planck Institute for the History of Scence:

Reality in Many Worlds? Einstein's Realism and Everett's Quantum Mechanics

Einstein's realism, long dismissed as a naive prejudice out of touch with the sophistication of contemporary physics and philosophy, has experienced a surprising renaissance in the last decades. Many physicists, philosophers, and historians have argued that Einstein's critique of quantum mechanics has to be taken very seriously,  but the exact meaning of Einstein's concept of reality has been difficult to pin down. Going back to Einstein's reflections on the meaning of relativity in his two theories of relativity, I will offer a new analysis of Einstein's concept of "physical reality" as a methodological requirement and not an epistemological or metaphysical one, as it has been commonly seen.  Rather than being disproven by the developments of twentieth century physics, I argue that Einstein's considerations throw light on the theoretical apparatus of modern physics up to this day.

I will discuss Einstein's critique of the Copenhagen interpretation in the light of this concept of physical reality and especially its role in the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paper. Bell's inequalities and their empirical confirmation show the impossibility of Einstein's preferred conclusion that quantum mechanics is an incomplete representation of a more fundamental field theory. So the question is where we need to part ways with Einstein's analysis. I show that most current interpretations of quantum mechanics give up either Einstein's methodological realism or the principle of local interaction. Only Everett's relative state interpretation is able to preserve both.

tirsdag, den 20. oktober 2009, kl. 17.00

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In English