Quotations for the Backyard Quantum Mechanic

(a collection of quotes by scientists, quasi-scientists and pseudo-scientists)

Selected by Ben Best

"...contemporary physicists come in two varieties. Type 1 physicists are bothered by EPR and Bell's Theorem. Type 2 (the majority) are not, but one has to distinguish two subvarieties. Type 2a physicists explain why they are not bothered. Their explanations tend either to miss the point entirely (like Born's to Einstein) or to contain physical assertions that can be shown to be false. Type 2b are not bothered and refuse to explain why."
     —David Mermin

"I think it is safe to say that no one understands quantum mechanics. Do not keep saying to yourself, if you can possibly avoid it, ' But how can it be like that?' because you will go 'down the drain' into a blind alley from which nobody has yet escaped. Nobody knows how it can be like that."
     —Richard Feynman

"Bell's theorem dealt a shattering blow to Einstein's position by showing that the conception of reality as consisting of separate parts, joined by local connections, is incompatible with quantum theory... Bell's theorem demonstrates that the universe is fundamentally interconnected, interdependent, and inseparable."
     —Fritjof Capra

"And let no one use the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen experiment to claim that information can be transmitted faster than light, or to postulate any 'quantum interconnectedness' between separate consciousnesses. Both are baseless. Both are mysticism. Both are moonshine."
     —John Wheeler

"Bell's theorem...proves that quantum theory requires connections that appear to resemble telepathic communication."
     —Gary Zukav

"...in mathematics you don't understand things, you just get used to them."
     —John von Neumann

"Modern science should indeed arouse in all of us a humility before the immensity of the unexplored and a tolerance for crazy hypotheses."
     —Martin Gardner

"Niels Bohr brainwashed a whole generation of theorists into thinking that the job (interpreting quantum theory) was done 50 years ago."
     —Murray Gell-Mann

"The difference between science and religion is that the former wishes to get rid of mysteries whereas the latter worships them."
     —Sidney Hook

"The desire to know the truth is as old as the human race, and this desire must thrust aside any feeling of caution over the possible loss of the security provided by customary concepts."
     —D.I. Blokhintsev

"...to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."
     —Isaac Newton

"It is true that many scientists are not philosophically minded and have hitherto shown much skill and ingenuity but little wisdom."
     —Max Born

"...the physicist cannot simply surrender to the philosopher the critical contemplation of the theoretical foundations; for, he himself knows best, and feels more surely where the shoe pinches...Physical conceptions are free creations of the human mind, and are not, however it may seem, uniquely determined by the external world."
     —Albert Einstein

"From the outset, however, this whole controversy has been plagued by tacit assumptions, very often of a philosophical rather than a physical character..."
     —David Bohm

"What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning."
     —Werner Heisenberg

"...physics is the study of the structure of consciousness."
     —Gary Zukav

"Our intellect does not draw its laws from nature, but it imposes its laws upon nature."
     —Immanuel Kant

"But some of these theories are so bold that they can clash with reality: they are the testable theories of science. And when they clash, then we know that there is a reality; something that can inform us that our ideas are mistaken."
     —Karl Popper

"Unless a thing can be defined by measurement, it has no place in a theory. And since an accurate value of the momentum of a localized particle cannot be defined by measurement it therefore has no place in the theory."
     —Richard P. Feynman

"Quantum mechanics, however, regards the interactions of object and observer as the ultimate reality. It uses the language of physical relations and processes rather than that of physical qualities and properties. It rejects as meaningless and useless the notion that behind the universe of our perception there lies a hidden objective world ruled by causality; instead, it confines itself to the description of the relations among perceptions."
     —R. Eisberg & R. Resnick

"The treatment of the indeterminacy principle as absolute and final can then be criticized as constituting an arbitrary restriction on scientific theories, since it does not follow from the quantum theory as such, but rather from the assumption of the unlimited validity of certain of its features, an assumption that can in no way ever be subjected to experimental proof."
     —David Bohm

"Is the world ruled by strict laws or not? This question I regard as metaphysical. The laws we find are always hypotheses; which means that they may always be superseded, and that they may possibly be deduced from probability estimates. Yet denying causality would be the same as attempting to persuade the theorist to give up his search; and that such an attempt cannot be backed by anything like a proof..."
     —Karl Popper

"The discontinuous 'reduction of the wave packets' which cannot be derived from Schroedinger's equation is ... a consequence of the transition from the possible to the actual."
     —Werner Heisenberg

"But it is certainly not possible to insist on one hand that the formalism is complete and to insist on the other hand that its application to 'the actual' actually demands a step which cannot be derived from it."
     —Karl Popper

"Today, after endless repetition, a dual nature of matter may seem as obvious and indisputable to the experts as the immobility of the Earth seemed to Galileo's learned colleagues who refused to look through his telescope because it might make them dizzy."
     —Alfred Landé

"It is not intuitive ease I am after, but rather a point of view which is sufficiently definite to clear up some difficulties, and to be criticized in rational terms. (Bohr's complementarity cannot be so criticized, I fear; it can only be accepted or denounced — perhaps as being ad hoc, or as being irrational, or as being hopelessly vague.)"
     —Karl Popper