Posts Tagged ‘quantum mechanics’

Christopher Norris Defends Philosophy

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

Christopher Norris has written an article in Philosophy Now defending the Philosophy of Science from allegations of its irrelevance by scientists (most recently Stephen Hawking for example).  Norris alleges the existence of “scientists’ need to philosophize and their proneness to philosophize badly or commit certain avoidable errors if they don’t take at least some passing interest in what philosophers have to say“, and he asserts that modern theorists  “appear unworried – blithely unfazed, one is tempted to say – by the fact that their theories are incapable of proof or confirmation, or indeed of falsification…”  and further that “scientific theories – especially theories of the ultra-speculative kind that preoccupy theoretical physicists like Hawking – involve a great deal of covert philosophising which may or may not turn out to promote the interests of knowledge and truth“. All of these claims might be considered plausible on the basis of attempts to “explain” quantum physics (and beyond) in popular literature, where analogies (which often really are used by physicists, but just to help guide their intuition) are often all that is provided.   It is true that some of these accounts can be faulted for not admitting that that is what they are doing, and perhaps that needs pointing out. But Norris seems to be doing the opposite by confusing the intuition-guiding analogies with the theories themselves.

A Quantum Embarrassment to Scientific American

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

The latest Scientific American lead article Was Einstein Wrong?: A Quantum Threat to Special Relativity is an odd duck. It almost (but never quite) does a fair job of describing some quite challenging aspects of quantum mechanics and its relation to locality in special relativity, and yet manages to completely disgrace itself (and the magazine’s editors) within its first paragraph by asserting that “radio waves propagate through the air” in an argument identifying the light-cone locality of special relativity with non-existence of action-at-a-distance.