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. 🙂