Abstract: Louisa Gilder

The Early History of Entanglement:  EPR before 1935

Louisa Guilder
Physics & Astronomy Colloquium
2:30 p.m., October 14, 2011
Thompson Physical Laboratory 205

Heisenberg said that “science is rooted in conversations.” If the conversations aren’t clear, the science can suffer. This is what happened to the foundations of quantum mechanics in the early 1930s—mis-communication derailed progress. I will talk about two examples.

1) At Solvay in 1930, five years before the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paper and Bohr’s response to it, Einstein first presented to Bohr the EPR idea. Ehrenfest repeated it to Bohr again by letter in 1931. Bohr seems to have mis-heard both times.

2) In von Neumann’s 1932 Mathematische Grundlagen der Quantenmechanik (as an aside) he offered a proof that hidden variables cannot complete quantum mechanics. In early 1935, after long conversations with Heisenberg, mathematician Grete Hermann published a paper in which (also as an aside) she showed that von Neumann’s proof is based on a faulty assumption. But the proof remained unquestioned by most people until Bell’s final unmasking of it, over thirty years after it was first published.

Louisa Gilder is the author of The Age of Entanglement: When Quantum Physics Was Reborn, one of only five science books on the New York Times Book Review’s 100 Notable Books of 2009.