As mentioned in my previous post, Oliver Consa traces all of the nonsense in modern physics back to the Shelter Island (1947), Pocono (1948) and Oldstone (1949) Conferences. However, the first Solvay Conference that was organized after WW II was quite significant too. Niels Bohr and Robert Oppenheimer pretty much dominated it. Bohr does so by providing the introductory lecture ‘On the Notions of Causality and Complementarity’, while Oppenheimer’s ‘Electron Theory’ sets the tone for subsequent Solvay Conferences—most notably the one that would consecrate quantum field theory (QFT), which was held 13 years later (1961).
Indeed, the discussion between Oppenheimer and Dirac on the ‘Electron Theory’ paper in 1948 seems to be where things might have gone wrong—in terms of the ‘genealogy’ or ‘archaelogy’ of modern ideas, so to speak. In fact, both Oppenheimer and Dirac make rather historical blunders there:
- Oppenheimer uses perturbation theory to arrive at some kind of ‘new’ model of an electron, based on Schwinger’s new QFT models—which, as we now know, do not really lead anywhere.
- Dirac, however, is just too stubborn too: he simply keeps defending his un-defendable electron equation— which, of course, also doesn’t lead anywhere. [It is rather significant he was no longer invited for the next Solvay Conference.]
It is, indeed, very weird that Dirac does not follow through on his own conclusion: “Only a small part of the wave function has a physical meaning. We now have the problem of picking out that very small physical part of the exact solution of the wave equation.”
It’s the ring current or Zitterbewegung electron, of course. The one trivial solution he thought was so significant in his 1933 Nobel Prize lecture… The other part of the solution(s) is/are, effectively, bizarre oscillations which he refers to as ‘run-away electrons’.
It’s nice to sort of ‘get’ this. 🙂
3 thoughts on “Where things went wrong, exactly !”
I reckon things have been going wrong an awful lot. Jean. LOL, instead of trying to pinpoint where things went wrong, it would probably be easier to pinpoint where they didn’t. Anyway, I think things went really wrong in the 1920s, when the Copenhagen school rejected work by de Broglie, Schrodinger, and Darwin to insist upon a point-particle electron. Despite the Davisson-Germer experiment and the Thomson and Reid diffraction experiment which proved the wave nature of matter. The renormalization of QED was then a total fudge, only necessary because of the insistence upon a point-particle electron. As for the much-trumpeted accuracy of QED, well done Oliver Consa for telling us about that.
Right you are, John ! It’s amazing how both scientists and commentators – such as Sean Carroll, for example (see my last post: https://readingfeynman.org/2020/04/29/about-self-appointed-science-gurus/) – stick to ideas and approaches that haven’t worked for almost a 100 years now – despite geniuses such as Einstein, H.A. Lorentz, Dirac, and even J.S. Bell (later in life, though) saying aloud re-normalization and perturbation theories don’t solve the problems inherent in wave equation approaches…