The Quantum Pontiff

Quantum Cartoons

Richard, a long while back (yes, I’m cleaning my inbox!), sent me some cartoons that were apparently floating around in the 70s when he did his BS in Chemistry that are quite amusing:
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Comments

  1. #1 Ian Durham
    January 13, 2010

    Those are good. Hope all is well with Mrs. and soon-to-be Baby Bacon.

  2. #2 John Sidles
    January 13, 2010

    LOL … Dave, this post has exceptionally many Great Truths! :)

    And so … let’s construct some *opposite* Great Truths!

    Hmmm … the last quote “It is impossible to live up to the expectations of a post-Dirac world” is exactly the *opposite* of a Dirac quote that the UC’s Valentine Telegdi was fond of: “A Golden Era is a time when ordinary people can make extraordinary contributions” (BibTeX appended, naturally). So let’s take that as “Dirac’s opposite Great Truth”.

    Nowadays, every student learns that quantum mechanics can be framed (in Feynman’s phrase) “(from a) very large number of different physical viewpoints and widely different mathematical formulations that are all equivalent to one another.” And so everybody understands that the future of QM research is very largely contingent upon what framework(s) we choose to work in.

    But it is less often appreciated that the *past* of quantum mechanics is similarly contingent. And isn’t thinking creatively about the past, instead of the future, hugely advantageous? Because surely, we can ask-and-answer questions about the past of QM with considerably greater insight than we can ask-and-answer questions about the future.

    So let’s ask ourselves this question about the past of QM (and thank-you, Dave and Richard, for stimulating it!): what past-paths for the development of QM, might have led us to a present that more closely approximates a Dirac Golden Era?

    Now, I am writing this off the top of my head … but this question is for me so interesting (in the sense of naturally uniting my interests in QM, math, medicine, and resources) that I am *NOT* going to finish the post.

    Instead I am going to map out a “Dirac Golden Era” world in which (provisionally): (1) K√§hler lived before Hilbert, (2) Kolmogorov and Arnol’d lived before Heisenberg and Schr√∂dinger, (3) Berezin lived before Dirac, and (4) von Neumann, Wiener, and Feynman pursued their interests in biology and microscopy, instead of working upon nuclear weapons and missiles.

    For reasons that I will work-out off-line, it seems to me resulting world might more nearly have approximated a Dirac Golden Era, than our present (soberingly) dystopian planet, in which too many young researchers are struggling to establish family-supporting careers … and into which soberingly many (10^9) Dave Bacon Jrs. will be born in this coming 21st century.

    I seem to dimly recall a short-short (Rudy Rucker?) SF road-trip story, featuring Richard Feynman and John von Neumann, that developed a similar line of thought … and I would be very grateful to any Pontiff reader for a pointer to that story.

    The post-modern point of the above meditation is simply this … if we seriously want to change our planet’s future … then perhaps it is imprudent to believe that we cannot alter our planet’s past … because at the very least, we can thoughtfully choose the narrative(s) that we tell ourselves about that past.

    ———

    @inproceedings{***, Author = {P. A. M. Dirac}, Booktitle = {Directions in Physics}, Editor = {H. Hora and J. R. Shepanski}, Pages = {6}, Publisher = {Wiley-Interscience, New York}, Title = {The Development of Quantum Mechanics}, Year = 1978}

    @inproceedings{***, Author = {V. L. Telegdi}, Booktitle = {Pions to Quarks, Particle Experiments in the 1950s}, Editor = {L. M. Brown and M. Dresden and L. Hoddeson}, Pages = {481}, Publisher = {Cambridge University Press}, Title = {Early experiments leading to the {V}-{A} interaction}, Year = 1989}

  3. #3 John Sidles
    January 13, 2010

    Hi Ian! Look earlier on this blog, and you will see that Baby Bacon has been born! Congratulations again! Dave, do we have a *name* yet?

    And you yeah … my post above has an obvious typo … there won’t be 10^9 Baby Bacons born during this century … there will be 10^10 new planetary citizens.

    Which is good … right? … 10X as many young creative minds? Of which (say) 1/10^5 will attend QIP2110?

  4. #4 John Sidles
    January 14, 2010

    Q: … I seem to dimly recall a short-short (Rudy Rucker?) SF road-trip story, featuring Richard Feynman and John von Neumann …

    The mystic chords of memory belatedly were heard from … the story was Instability, by Rudy Rucker and Paul Di Filippo (1988).

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