20101202

The Uncertainty Principle and the Death of Classical Mechanics

Hello Glenn,

Upon further consideration, I believe the Uncertainty Principle is somewhat correct. For example,

"Suppose that we want to measure the position and speed of an object — for example a car going through a radar speed trap. Naively, we assume that the car has a definite position and speed at a particular moment in time, and how accurately we can measure these values depends on the quality of our measuring equipment — if we improve the precision of our measuring equipment, we will get a result that is closer to the true value. In particular, we would assume that how precisely we measure the speed of the car does not affect its position, and vice versa."

Because every microcosm affects every other microcosm, any measuring device would have some effect on the microcosm being measured. In the case of the car and the radar gun, the effect would be infinitesimally small. Nonetheless, there would be a very small distortion in the measurement.

However, in the case of electrons -- being measured with devices with accuracy no greater than an electron -- the distortions could be large. This is probably what Heisenberg encountered. The degree of uncertainty must always depend on the precision of the measuring device compared to the composition of the microcosm being measured.

Regards,

Steve



Steve:

Thanks for your comment. I disagree only a little bit—I would leave out the “somewhat.” The Uncertainty Principle is correct, as your examples clearly show. It is only the interpretation of what this means that could possibly be incorrect. As you know, there have been two different interpretations: 1. Uncertainty is an indication that Aristotle’s absolute chance actually occurs (the Copenhagen view) or 2. Uncertainty is a sign of observer ignorance (Bohm’s view). As I explained under UNCERTAINTY (in TSW), the first is indeterministic and incorrect and the second is deterministic and correct.

The development of the Uncertainty Principle actually meant that classical mechanics, being dependent on finite causality, was no longer valid, becoming particularly noticeable in the micro world. None of the equations of classical mechanics could produce perfectly precise results. The plus or minus in all experimental results was not an indication of nature’s probability, but an indication that nature was infinite. Being reluctant to face that ultimate conclusion, physicists trained in classical mechanics overwhelmingly favored the wrong interpretation, albeit with much argumentation based mostly on presuppositions, rather than assumptions. After the Uncertainty Principle, science had to be guided by infinite universal causality (CAUSALITY, in TSW). As classical determinists had maintained all along, there were causes for all effects. What they did not grasp was that, with the universe being infinitely subdividable, there were an infinite number of causes for all effects. Thus the erroneous Copenhagen view survives to this day merely because modern physics cannot embrace the assumption of INFINITY.

2 comments:

Bill Howell said...

Dr. Borchardt-
I have read two different interpretations of the Uncertainty Principle (as it relates to subatomic studies). One explanation is that it is due to our lack of precision (which implies that more precise tools could someday become available). The other explanation is that it is physically impossible to gain greater precision because any probe we could ever devise can’t be smaller than the object being probed (and therefore it will always disturb the object in the process of probing it). I had concluded that the Uncertainty Principle (as it relates to subatomic studies) actually referred to the latter explanation. Now I’m confused again. It seems to me that the Univironmental principle of Infinity means that there will always be smaller particles. This implies the possibility of probing deeper levels than we can now. I understand that we will never reach a finite or final precision (because it doesn’t exist), but wouldn’t Univironmental Theory predict that the current subatomic limit being attributed to the Uncertainty Principle could one day be broken (i.e. that the first explanation is the correct interpretation)?

Glenn Borchardt said...

Bill:
Thanks for the comment. Let’s review our assumption of UNCERTAINTY: “It is impossible to know everything about anything, but it is possible to know more about anything.” This implies: 1) that it is impossible to build a tool of any sort that will have perfect precision. This is because both the tool and the microcosm being measured each consist of an infinite number of submicrocosms in motion. In addition, each is immersed in surroundings that have an infinite number of supermicrocosms in motion. None of these will be the same at any two moments. 2) The very act of measurement requires a collision, which changes both the tool and the microcosm being measured.

None of these “limitations” is dependent on size. They are dependent instead, on the fact that the univironment is infinite and always in motion. The measuring tool can be larger or smaller than the microcosm to be measured. Of course, the smaller the tool and the more gentle its collision with the microcosm, the less will be the disturbance produced during the collision. Our tools have gradually improved to the point that we now measure what we believe to be subatomic microcosms. In this case, the ultimate limitation on our attempts “to know more about anything” will be financial, not physical.

I sympathize a bit with your puzzlement and with the indeterministic interpretation upheld by the Copenhageners. All of the above might give one the idea there really is “an inherent element of chance in nature.” Nevertheless, all those infinitely small microcosms that we will never measure still collide with each other in the old-fashioned way. We still can assume that uncertainty is due either to observer ignorance or to chance. However, as Bohm (1957) taught us, it is better to assume that uncertainty is due to observer ignorance and that causality occurs within an infinite milieu rather than in the finite world of the positivist and classical mechanist.


Bohm, D., 1957, Causality and chance in modern physics: New York, Harper and Brothers, 170 p.

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