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It Aint Necessarily

Interpretations and Misinterpretations of
Quantum Theory
John Stachel

Frontiers of Fundamental Physics

Faculty of Sciences (AMU)
Marseille, 15-18 July 2014

It Ain't Necessarily So
by George Gershwin
It ain't necessarily so
It ain't necessarily so
The t'ings dat yo' li'ble
To read in de Bible,
It ain't necessarily so.

I'm preachin' dis sermon to

It ain't nece-ain't nece
Ain't nece-ain't nece
Ain't necessarily ... so !

My Apologies in
Time limits require brevity and
brevity is the mother of
None of my statements should
be interpreted dogmatically
they are all meant to stimulate
critical thinking and further
For a copy of my PowerPoint

Examples of
Misinterpretations from
Two Widely Praised
2013 Books

1)What is the
2)Are Duality and
Complementarity the

Princeton University
Press, 2013

Einstein and the

Stone attacks
the Copenhagen
focusing on
Borns probabilistic
interpretation of the wavefunction, Heisenbergs
uncertainty principle and Bohrs
mysterious complementarity

Einstein and the

Einsteins later critiques of
quantum theory focused less on
its indeterminacy and more on
its strange epistemological
status. In quantum mechanics
the actual act of measurement
is part of the theory; these
magic coins just mentioned exist
in a state of (heads, tails)-(tails,
heads) uncertainty until they


Stone does not seem to be

aware that he is giving
Heisenbergs interpretation of
quantum mechanics, which is
quite different from Bohrs
You dont have to take my word
for this:

Nine formulations of quantum

mechanics, Daniel F. Styer et
al, Am. J. Phys. 70 (2002): pp.
[O]f the two primary architects
of the Copenhagen
interpretation, Werner
Heisenberg maintained that
observation of the position will
alter the momentum by an
unknown and undeterminable
amount, whereas Niels Bohr
warned specifically against
phrases, often found in the

Nine formulations of quantum

mechanics, Daniel F. Styer et
al, Am. J. Phys. 70 (2002): pp.
The wave function should be
regarded as a mathematical tool
for calculating the outcomes of
observations, not as a physically
present entity existing in space
such a football, or a nitrogen
molecule, or even an electric

Examples of
Misinterpretations from
Two Widely Praised
2013 Books
1)What is the
2)Are Duality and
Complementarity the

Pegasus Books,

Farewell to
Danish physicist
Niels Bohr and
German Werner Heisenberg
argued that particles and waves
are merely the shadowy
projections of an unfathomable
reality into our empirical world
of measurement and perception.
. This approach to quantum
theory became known as the
Copenhagen interpretation.At
the heart of this interpretation

But According to Bohr

They Are Not
Since Bohr introduced
and developed the
concept of
complementarity in
quantum mechanics, on
this one Ill let Bohr speak
for himself:

Niels Bohr 1885-1962

The Causality Problem in

Atomic Physics (1938)
It is true that the duality
between the undulatory and
corpuscular conceptions exists
for matter as well as for light,
but this is only one aspect of a
symbolical formalism and its
interpretation must be found in
the classical conceptions. Just as
the mass and charge of the
electron can only be defined
classically, the description of

The Causality Problem in

The concepts of the photon and
the material wave are on the
contrary purely abstract
methods of considering the
general nature of
complementarity that exists, by
reason of the individuality of the
quantum of action, between the
spatio-temporal representation
and the principle of

(wave fronts)
characteristic strips)


(world lines,

Ensemble of

(E, p)
Both can be defined and measured for an
individual system
Either can be chosen to define a complete

Outline of the
1) Some
on my

A theory is a
conceptual framework
providing predictions .
The results of
experiments or
observations decide
whether the theory is

Gaston Bachelard

The Formation of the

Scientific Spirit (1938)
In order to include new
experimental tests, it is
necessary to deform the
original concepts, study
their conditions of
applicability, and above all
incorporate the conditions
of applicability of a concept

The New Scientific

Spirit (translation

[P]henomena must ... be

carefully selected, filtered and
purified; they must be cast in
the mold of scientific
instruments and produced at
the level of these instruments.
Now instruments are just
materialized theories. The
phenomena that come out of
them bear on all sides the

The Lesson From


Dont separate
meaning and
Incorporate the
conditions of
applicability of a
concept into the

Outline of the

Measurability analysis
identifies those concepts that
a theory defines as meaningful
within some context and
investigates to what extent
the values associated with
these concepts are ideally
measurable in the defining
context (e.g. concepts of
hardness and viscosity in the

Peter G. Bergmann
Collaborator of
Pioneer in study
of quantization
of generally
including GR

Bergmann and Smith

1982 Measurability Analysis for
the Linearized Gravitational
Measurability analysis
identifies those dynamic field
variables that are susceptible
to observation and
measurement (observables),
and investigates to what
extent limitations inherent in
their experimental
determination are consistent
with the uncertainties

Prolegomena to any future

Gravity (Stachel 2007)
[M]easurability analysis is
based on the relation between
formalism and observation; its
aim is to shed light on the
physical implications of any
formalism: the possibility of
formally defining any
physically significant quantity
should coincide with the
possibility of measuring it in
principle; i.e., by means of

This is not
operationalism Its
not real because its
measurable, it must
be measurable
because its real!

Simple Classical
Hardness and
Viscosity can be
applied to any
substance, but not
simultaneously. If it is
in solid state,
hardness applies; if it

Outline of the
is and is not

What is NOT Being

Quantization only makes
sense when applied to
structures or entities.

The Mystique Surrounding

Quantum Mechanics
Anything touched by this
formalism thereby seems to be
elevated or should it be
lowered? to a fundamental
ontological status. The very
words quantum mechanics
conjure up visions of electrons,
photons, baryons, mesons,
neutrinos, quarks and other
exotic building blocks of the

The Mystique Surrounding

Quantum Mechanics
But the scope of the quantum
mechanical formalism is by no
means limited to such
(presumed) fundamental
particles. There is no
restriction of principle on its
application to any physical
system. One could apply the
formalism to sewing machines
if there were any reason to do

What IS
Quantization is just a way
accounting for the effects of h,
the quantum of action, on any
process involving some
or rather on theoretical models
of such a system-fundamental or
composite, in which the

Some Non-fundamental
1) quasi-particles: particle-like
entities arising in certain
systems of interacting
particles, such as phonons and
rotons in hydrodynamics
(Landau 1941)
2) phenomenological photons:
quantized electromagnetic
waves in a homogeneous,
isotropic dielectric (Ginzburg

Two Kinds of
There are
relations, in which
the things are primary and
their relation is secondary:
relations between things
There are relations, in which
the relation is primary
while the things are
secondary: things
between relations

Particles, Field
The particlesQuanta
of non-relativistic QM

and the quanta of specialrelativistic Quantum Field Theory

lack inherent individuality
They are only individuated (to the
extent that they are) by some
process (Feynmans word) or
phenomenon (Bohrs word), in
which they are involved.
Bosons and Fermions can be
arbitrarily permuted without
changing the probability amplitude
for any process, and so are things

quantization of
some classical formalism does
not mean that one has
achieved a deeper
understanding of reality or
better, an understanding of a
deeper level of reality. It
means that one has
successfully understood the
effects of the quantum of

In my Fathers house
are many mansions-Having passed
beyond the
John 14:2

quantum mystique, one is free

to explore how to apply
quantization techniques to
various formulations of a
theory without the need to
single one out as the unique
right one. One might say:
Let a hundred flowers

Three Morals of This Tale

1) Relation Between
If two such quantizations at

different levels are carried out,

one may then investigate the
relation between them
Example: Crenshaw
demonstrates: A limited
equivalence between
microscopic and macroscopic
quantizations of the
electromagnetic field in a

Three Morals of This Tale

1) (contd)
If two such quantizations at
the same level are carried out,
one may also investigate the
relation between them
Example: the relation between
loop quantization and field
quantization of the
electromagnetic field: If you
thicken the loops, they are

Three Morals of This Tale

2) Dont Go
The search for a method of
quantizing space-time
structures associated with
the Einstein equations is
quite distinct from:
The search for an
underlying theory of all
fundamental interactions

Three Morals of This Tale

3) Dont go Exclusive
An attempt to quantize one

set of space-time
structures does not negate,
and need not replace,
attempts to quantize
another set of space-time
structures. Everything
depends on the utility of

The Causality Problem in

Atomic Physics, I.I.I.C.,
The essential
of the analysis of
measure-ments in quantum theory is
thus the emphasis on the necessity,
in the account of the phenomena, of
taking the whole experimental
arrangement into consideration, in
complete conformity with the fact
that all unambiguous interpretation
of the quantum mechanical formalism
involves the fixation of the external
conditions, defining the initial state
of the atomic system concerned and

A Well-defined
Any measurement in quantum
theory can in fact only refer
either to a fixation of the initial
state or to the test of such
predictions, and it is first the
combination of measurements of
both kinds which constitutes a
well-defined phenomenon.

Atomic Physics and

Human Knowledge
On the lines of objective
description, it is indeed more
appropriate to use the word
phenomenon to refer only to
observations obtained under
circumstances whose description
includes an account of the whole
experimental arrangement. In
such terminology, the
observational problem in

Atomic Physics and

Human Knowledge
and we are, moreover, directly
reminded that every atomic
phenomenon is closed in the
sense that its observation is
based on registrations obtained
by means of suitable
amplification devices with
irreversible functioning such as,
for example, permanent marks
on a photographic plate, caused

Definability and
One must always establish a
qualitative and quantitative
consonance between the
concept of an entity, for which
physical significance is
claimed, and an ideal
measurement procedure for
that entity.
If it is a quantum concept, h
(the quantum of action) must

Bohr: 1931 Maxwell

Centenary Talk
It must not be forgotten
that only the classical ideas
of material particles and
electromagnetic waves
have a field of
unambiguous application,
whereas the concepts of
photon and electron waves

Bohr: 1931 Maxwell

Centenary Talk
Their applicability is
essentially limited to cases in
which, on account of the
existence of the quantum of
action, it is not possible to
consider the phenomenon
observed as independent of
the apparatus utilized for their
observation. . [T]he photon
idea is essentially one of

Science: Confusion in
Time Magazine
June 1938 to
No remarkable
physical theory came out of Warsaw,
Poland last week, and none was
expected. Nevertheless, an
International Conference on New
Theories in Physics, sponsored by the
League of Nations International
Institute of Intellectual Cooperation,
was in session there, attended by
some 30 giants of theoretical physics.
On hand were Denmark's Niels Bohr

Science: Confusion in
The physicists'Warsaw
talk was lively and brilliant.
But they spent most of their time trying to
find some way to mend the painful gap
between Relativity and Quantum Mechanics,
bickering politely about the validity and
application of physical theories, asking
themselves what physical reality is after all.
Bohr criticized de Broglie and almost
everyone present criticized Sir Arthur
Eddington. Altogether they gave the
impression of giants wallowing in a

Paul Langevin

The Positivistic and the

Realistic Trends in the
Philosophy of Physics

This idea [Laplacian determinism] is inhuman not

only because it fixes an ideal that is impossible to
attain, but because it excludes the observer from
the system observed, because it separates the
mind from the matter which it tries to penetrate.

In quantum mechanics it is the wave function that

describes a system and which allows us to
calculate the probability depending both upon
the system and upon our information about it; it
introduces both the observer and the observed,
the subject and the obect, and every time we
obtain new information, the wave function
appears to change. There are therefore as many
wave functions as observers. .

Bohr on Langevin 1)
[I]n order to avoid any
misunderstanding concerning
the significance of the word
indeterminism, recall that
in quantum effects we were not
dealing with behaviour
independent of the objects, but
that the observable phenomena
essentially depend upon the
interaction of these objects with
the measuring instruments

Bohr on Langevin 1)
That is the reason why we find
ourselves faced by quite a new
situation in physics in which the
traditional conceptions of
determinism or indeterminism
are not univocally applicable. It
is really wonderful that in spite
of this we can, with the help of
mathematical abstractions, put
so much order into a domain so
vast and so rich with

Langevins Response to
Bohr 1)
. He thought that the use
of the word corpuscle
[particle], weighed down by
old associations was
sometimes a source of
confusion and difficulty.
[T]here is a kind of
intermediate picture that
would suit the corpuscle better
than that of an individual
object taken over from

Bohr on Langevin 2)
Professor Bohr wished, with
regard to the use of the
corpuscle idea, to draw
attention to the danger there
would be in confusing the
problem of the individuality of
the photon, which is entirely
quantic, with the corpuscular
properties of the electron, which
can be related to an entirely

Bohr on Langevin 2)
It is true that the duality
between the undulatory and
corpuscular conceptions exists
for matter as well as for light,
but this is only one aspect of a
symbolical formalism and its
interpretation must be found in
the classical conceptions. Just as
the mass and charge of the
electron can only be defined
classically, the description of

Bohr on Langevin 2)
The concepts of the photon and
the material wave are on the
contrary purely abstract
methods of considering the
general nature of
complementarity that exists, by
reason of the individuality of the
quantum of action, between the
spatio-temporal representation
and the principle of
conservation of momentum and

Bohr on Langevin 2)
In fact we might say that from
this point of view the difference
between matter and light is as
fundamental in quantum theory
as in the classical one.

Einstein to Paul Bonofield,

September 18, 1939
I do not believe that the light-quanta
have reality in the same immediate
sense as the corpuscles of electricity
[i.e., electrons]. Likewise I do not believe
that the particle-waves have reality in
the same sense as the particles
themselves. The wave-character of
particles and the particle-character of
light will-- in my opinion-- be understood
in a more indirect way, not as immediate
physical reality."

(wave fronts)
characteristic strips)


(world lines,

Ensemble of


Going Beyond
Metric tensor
compatibility conditions


For Some Discussion of This

Question, See FFP12

Photons: Their
Emission and Detection
Under what conditions will
an (ideal) device be able to
the emission of a photon
(must be non-destructive);
the detection of a photon
(may be destructive)

Photons: Their
Emission and Detection
The device used must contain
a system with a series of
discrete energy and/or
momentum levels, the
differences between which are
proportional to h so that it can
emit or absorb photons of
energy h and momentum h/,
linked to a system sufficiently
complex that it is able to

The Moral of This

Without interaction
a mass-ive system
having discrete quantum levels, neither the
electro-magnetic nor the
gravitational field will
ever manifest their
discrete, particulate

Outline of the
4) Processes
are Primary,
States are

Lee Smolin

Three Roads to Quantum

[R]elativity theory and
quantum theory each ... tell
us-- no, better, they scream at
us-- that our world is a history
of processes. Motion and
change are primary. Nothing
is, except in a very
approximate and temporary
sense. How something is, or

Three Roads to Quantum Gravity

It may be a useful illusion for

some purposes, but if we want to
think fundamentally we must not
lose sight of the essential fact
that 'is' is an illusion. So to speak
the language of the new physics
we must learn a vocabulary in
which process is more important
than, and prior to, stasis.

Primacy of Process
Phrases such as "at any
moment of time", "at any
given time are appropriate
in Newtonian-Galileian
physics, which is based on a
global absolute time. But
from SR on to GR, this phrase
involves a convention
defining a global time.

Primacy of Process
The only conventioninvariant things are
processes, each involving a
space-time region. This
suggests-- as do many other
considerations-- that the
fundamental entities in
quantum theory are the
transition amplitudes, and

Primacy of Process
And this is true of our
measurements as well: any
measurement involves a finite
time interval and a finite 3dimensional spatial region.
Sometimes, we can get away
with neglecting this, and talking,
for example in NR QM, about
instantaneous measurements.

Primacy of Process
But sometimes we most
definitely cannot, as Bohr and
Rosenfeld demonstrated for
QFT, where the basic quantities
defined by the theory are spacetime averages. Their critique of
Landau and Peierls shows what
happens if you forget this!

"Extension of the principle of

indeterminateness for the relativistic
quantum theory"
L. Landau and R. Peierls,
Z. Phys. 69,
Lev Davidovich
56 (1931).
Rudolf Peierls

Indeterminacy in Measurements by
Charged Particles, Jens Lindhard

Indeterminacy in Measurements
by Charged Particles
In 1931, Landau and Peierls raised
doubts about the consistency of the
quantum theory of electromagnetic
fields, doubts which, if true, were
expected to deprive the theory of
any physical basis. They maintained
that, due to quantal uncertainty
relations, it was not possible to
measure electromagnetic radiation
fields by means of charged particles.

Indeterminacy in Measurements
by Charged Particles
Soon after, Bohr and Rosenfeld
criticized this derivation and went on
to show that electromagnetic fields
could indeed be measured if the
point-like particles of Landau and
Peierls were replaced by spatially
extended charge distributions [and
the measurement extended over a
finite time interval- JS].

Zur Frage der Messbarkeit der elektromagnetischen Feldgrssen, Bohr & Rosenfeld 1933
Niels Bohr

Leon Rosenfeld

On the Measurability of
Electromagnetic Field
Magnitudes (Bohr-Rosenfeld
In their analysis of the co1933)
measurability of electric and
magnetic field components,
rather than Landau-Peierls
test point particles, to get
finite results they had to use
averages over test bodies
occupying finite space-time
regions, paralleling their
similar averaging of the

To Sum It Up:
A quantum process
involves three stages:
Big question: How does
h figure in the

Outline of the
Relations in

One central method of taking
into account the quantum of
action is by means of
introducing commutation
relations between various
particle (non-rel QM) or field
(SR QFT) quantities
(observables) into the
But these commutation

Some Measurement Problems

JS the
uncertainty relations-- or better,
using a direct translation of the
German term Unbestimmheit,
the indeterminacy relations-assert that there is a limit to the
simultaneous measurability of a
pair of classical canonically
conjugate variables such as the
position and momentum of a

Some Measurement
Problems in Quantum
Gravity JS

And, as Heisenberg was at

great pains to demonstrate in
his little book "Physical
Principles of Quantum Theory,"
the limit set by the theory on
the simultaneous
measurement of any pair of
canonically conjugate variables
agrees perfectly with the limits
set by any idealized measure-

Heisenberg, Physics and

Introduction by Paul Davies
It is essential to appreciate
that this uncertainty is
inherent in nature and not
merely the result of
technological limitations in
measurement. It is not that the
experimenter is merely too
clumsy to measure position
and momentum
simultaneously. The particle
simply does not possess

Heisenberg, Physics and

Introduction by Paul Davies
One is used to uncertainty in
many physical processes for
example, in the stock market
or in thermodynamics but in
these cases the uncertainty is
due to missing information
rather than to any
fundamental limitation in what
may be known about these

Outline of the
Relations in

Measurement of the space-time

interval between two events
(Amelino-Camelia and JS 2007)

We share the point of view

emphasized by Heisenberg
and Bohr and Rosenfeld, that
the limits of definability of a
quantity within any formalism
should coincide with the limits
of measurability of that
quantity for all conceivable
(ideal) measurement
procedures. For wellestablished theories, this
criterion can be tested. For
example, in spite of a serious

Olivier Darrigol

The problem of the

measurability of quantum
fields (JS transln)
The discussion of these
fundamental difficulties at the
1930 Solvay Congress was
dominated by Bohrs viewpoint
[T]he scope of these
problems and the nature of
their solutions had to be
uncovered by a critique of the
basic concepts of the
threatened theories,

The problem of the

measurability of quantum
by an evaluation of the
possibilities of definition and
of observation within them.
Bohrs main message: On can
only judge the coherence of
the symbolic method by
examining the limits of
observability in the usual

New Heisenberg
Heisenberg had been the first to
consider the problem of field
measurements in his Chicago
lectures of spring 1929. [I]n his
analysis of the x-ray microscope, he
tended to privilege the corpuscular
and discontinuous viewpoint above
that of the wave viewpoint. Bohr
had succeeded, not without
difficulty, in convincing him that
the evaluation of the limits of the
corpus-cular viewpoint necessarily
involved calling upon the wave

New Heisenberg
But then it became important
for Heisen-berg to show that,
reciprocally, the domain of
applicability of the electromagnetic field concept must be
limited by the existence of
corpuscular aspects. He
provided new uncertainty
ExHy hc/(l)
for the averages of the electric

New Heisenberg

Heisenberg, Bohr wrote

should have taken account
not only of the spatial
extension of the field
measurements, but also of
their duration, essential for
the estimation of the role
of quantum fluctuations of
the field.

New Heisenberg

[C]ontrary to the initial

arguments of Heisenberg
the Bohr-Rosenfeld article
contains the rigorous proof
ExHy = 0
if Ex and Hy are measured in
the same [fourdimensional] domain.

David Kaisers article in

Conceptual Foundations of
Quantum Field Theory
By 1960 on the quantum field
theory side, theorists taught
their students to proceed along
four steps:
1. Specify an interaction
Hamiltonian in terms of
quantum fields.
2. Derive propagators for these
fields from the fields equations

Why Hamiltonians
and Equal-Time


The Peierls Bracket

Bryce DeWitt

The Peierls Bracket

When expounding the
fundamentals of quantum field
theory physicists almost
universally fail to apply the
lessons that relativity theory
taught them early in the
twentieth century. Although they
usually carry out their
calculations in a covariant way,
in deriving their calculational
rules they seem unable to wean

The Peierls Bracket

which are holdovers from the nineteenth
century, and are tied to the cumbersome
(3+1)-dimensional baggage of conjugate
momenta, bigger-than-physical Hilbert
spaces and constraints. One of the
unfortunate results is that physicists,
over the years, have almost totally
neglected the beautiful covariant
replacement for the canonical Poisson
bracket that Peierls invented in 1952.

Pierre Cartier & Ccile

(Cambridge 2006)

A Legacy, by Pierre
Bryce DeWitt constructs the operator
formalism of quantum physics from the
Peierls bracket which leads to the
Schwinger variational principle and to
functional integral representations.
The bracket invented by Peierls in 1952
is a beautiful, but often neglected,
covariant replacement for the canonical
Poisson bracket, or its generalizations,
used in canonical quantization.

The Pursuit of Quantum Gravity

Memoirs of Bryce DeWitt from 1946 to 2004

The Pursuit of Quantum


The remarkable thing about the

Peierls brackets is that they do
not depend for their definition
on the introduction of a
canonical formalism. They are
completely determined by the
laws of propagation of Jacobi
fields, and their definition
emphasizes the global spacetime
view of dynamics.
When I first realized that Bohr

The Pursuit of Quantum

[T]he PeierlsGravity,
bracket is the
appropriate concept for analyzing
the quantum mechanical limitations
on measurement accuracy. This
analysis says that measurements
can, in principle, always be made to
an accuracy equal to but no better
than that allowed by the a priori
uncertainties implied by the
quantum mechanical formalism.

The Problem of
Quantum Gravity
We need a theory that
can somehow
encompass the
achievements of both
Quantum Field Theory
& General relativity

But That is Another


Thank You !