Forstner, Christian: The Emergence of Bohmian Mechanics: Dialectical Materialism and the Construction of a new Quantum Theory

The Emergence of Bohmian Mechanics: Dialectical Materialism and the Construction of a new Quantum Theory

In 1951 David Bohm created a realistic interpretation of quantum theory in contradiction to the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics in which the quantum mechanical wave function describes a purely mathematical probability amplitude, established by Werner Heisenberg, Niels Bohr and Max Born in 1927. Bohm's world view, based dialectical materialism, contributed substantially to the construction of new physical entities in his theory and led him to work intensively on the philosophy of science.
Bohm took up his political engagement at Berkeley within the context of his graduate studies and war research in the thirties and forties of the last century, in an environment dominated by trade unions and left-wing parties. This engagement and a constructed spy case formed the basis of a hearing before the Committee on Un-American Activities during the McCarthy era and led in the long run to his dismissal from Princeton University, where he had been assistant and associate professor since 1947. In Princeton Bohm had dedicated himself to the standard topics of the time, in particular plasma physics and its applications to different fields of physics, for example solid state theory and astrophysics. This changed after he lost his job in 1951: Bohm left the mainstream and began to work on his interpretation of quantum theory, but he still tried to present it in a philosophical neutral perspective. Not until he went into exile in Brazil, did he modify his quantum mechanics in such a way, that the physical theory agreed with his beliefs and his philosophy of science. Bohm stated his philosophy of science in the book Causality and Chance in Modern Physics following Friedrich Engels's Dialectics of Nature. However, he transferred the concept of an infinite number of levels, which differ by dialectic jumps in their qualities, to quantum theory and founded the new physical entity of a subquantum level without being able to substantiate this in physical terms.
Bohm's example shows that the ideology and political attitude of a physicist can play a major role in the construction of scientific theories and entities but only in a suitable social context. In Bohm's case, this context was only given in his exile, when he was withdrawn from the scientific community and the political climate of the United States.

Forstner (Presentation)
Talk Forstner (*.mp3 audio file)