I’ve written a review for the Wall Street Journal of Paul Halpern’s new book
Einstein’s Dice and Schrödinger’s Cat (It’s here, unfortunately now behind a paywall [commenter advice is try googling “The Half-life of physicists” and using the Google link]).
I liked the book quite a bit, and learned many things about some history I already thought I knew well. The most dramatic section of the book is the story of the 1947 trouble between Schrodinger and Einstein caused by Schrödinger’s publicity campaign for a supposed breakthrough in the search for a unified theory, and Halpern writes about that here.
The title of the book emphasizes their misgivings about the probabilistic interpretation of quantum mechanics, and describes how Schrödinger’s cat arose out of discussions with Einstein. More of the book though is actually about their efforts to generalize GR and find a unified geometrical theory of gravity and electromagnetism. This began almost as soon as the field equations for GR were in place (1915). The book’s stories of media hype for bad ideas, involving physicists given rock-star academic positions at institutes set up for them make clear that some contemporary problems go back much further than I’d ever realized.
Einstein’s later work is, for good reason, dismissed as misguided, since it ignored quantum theory. He and Schrödinger did however have good reasons for skepticism about the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. The measurement problem has turned out to be a very subtle one, with the cat experiment a very good way of making clear the problem. Their enthusiasm for ideas about unification that weren’t working was also way ahead of their time…
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