Monthly Archives

December 2013

The Quantum Potential

Bohm’s Hidden Variable theory had been an attempt to create a “realistic” interpretation of quantum theory, one that did not deal with waves of probability but in which the electron had a definite path, causally created. But as a result of Oppenheimer’s dismissal of Bohm’s theory, the physicist became regarded as something of a maverick. In turn Bohm himself lost interest in his own theory. Then in the early 1970 one of his students, Chris Philippidis, decided to test out the theory on a computer and plotted the paths an electron could take when it encountered a barrier with two slits. Bohm was excited to see the results and decided to revive his theory. He did this by adding a new term to the Schrodinger Equation which he called the Quantum Potential. The conventional Schrodinger Equation contains two terms, one dealing with Kinetic Energy and the other with Potential Energy. When a negatively charged electron encounters an electrical field the force it experiences depends on the strength of the field, in other words the strength of the Electrical Potential. The Quantum Potential is very different for its effect on the electron does not depend on its strength but on its form, that is to say its shape. Thus Bohm uses the term in-form-ation. In other words the experimental surrounding of an electron is encoded in the Quantum Potential. It is information about the electron’s surroundings and the electron has the ability of “read” this information. Bohm used to joke that the electron must be at least as complicated as a television set. In short the electron has proto-mind and mind has been present since the origin of the universe. In turn Bohm distinguished between Active Information, Passive Information and Inactive Information.

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Language and Communication

Bohm was deeply concerned with language and in this he was encouraged by conversations with one of his post doctoral students, Donald Schumacher. And so the two of them engaged in may discussions about the roles of language and in particular in the case of the communication between Einstein and Neils Bohr. At time of their discussions over the meaning of quantum theory Bohr and Einstein had become very close and would meet each year when Bohr would address Einstein’s objections to the theory. Then years later, when Bohm was at Princeton, Bohr and some of his colleagues were invited. At the reception Bohm noticed that Bohr and his students congregated at one end of the room, while Einstein and his colleagues were at the other. The two groups did not interact. In his discussions with Schumacher Bohm came to the conclusion that their distance from each other arose out of a failure of communication. More specifically each was using words in subtly different ways which made clear communication difficult. It was as a result of these subtle differences that communication broke down and the two men began to sense a distance between them.

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Superimplicate Video game

In seeking “a new order for physics” Bohm and proposed the Implicate and the Explicate Order. The latter is our familiar world of well defined objects in space and time, but for Bohm this was no more than a surface reality, one that was constantly enfolding and unfolding from a deeper Implicate Order. It was an attractive new idea but also subject to the criticism that everything was already present in the Implicate Order, there was no room for something new. In a way it was a little like Plato’s theory of Forms. Then Bohm was invited to give a series of lectures at Syracuse University in New York State. On the way to the lecture hall each day he passed the student center with its video games. He seemed particularly fascinated by those games and I often suspected that when he was on his own he would go in to play with one of them. Not surprising in view of this interest he came up with the idea of the Superimplicate Order. Think of a video game. The computer under the screen is directing signals to the screen that appear as moving space ships. If the screen is the Explicate Order then the computer is the Implicate Order. But the space ships simply circle, repeating their positions over and over again. Suppose we now introduce a joystick and a player. The player watches the screen (Explicate Order) and moves the joystick which changes the computer program (Implicate Order).  In turn the space ships engage in new movements. The player and joystick are the Superimplicate order. So the Superimplicate monitors the unfolding of the Explicate and in turn modifies the Implicate. As Bohm said, “we have introduced creativity.” And for Bohm beyond the Superimplicate would be the SuperSuperimplicate and so

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Bohm, Cezanne and Biderman: The Implicate Order

While in Bristol Bohm had been deeply concerned that, despite decades of work, physics had failed to reconcile the two great theories – relativity and quantum theory.  Bohm believed that what was needed was not some new mathematics or a new theory but a radical new order to physics. But what was this order? Bohm had published Causality and Chance in Modern Physics and the artist Anthony Hill thought it may be of interest to an American artist, Charles Biderman, and so he sent him a copy. Biderman himself had written a book, The New Cezanne. As a result of Hill’s intervention Bohm and Biderman entered into a correspondence together. It was an incredibly active exchange with Bohm often mailing more than one long letter a day. In particular Biderman wrote about Cezanne’s approach to painting and could it have been this which gave Bohm a hint about his New Order?

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Walking and Talking

In Who’s Who Bohm had listed “walking” as his hobby and this was certainly true. When we were working on our book Wholeness and the Implicate Order each morning I would take the Tube to Edgware and reach his house on Gibbs Green. We would then go for a long walk together, with Bohm doing a lot of the talking. In essence we were discussing the content of the next few pages to be written. At the end of our walk we would have lunch and Bohm would rest while I typed up the notes of our discussion. Then when Bohm came down we would discuss the notes and plan our conversation for the following day. Some years later we began work on a new book The Order between and Beyond. For this we met at the Bailey Farms near Ossining, New York. This was an ideal location for Bohm, a farm house with a lake and lots of green countryside around. Again we would walk and talk in the morning and then work on our notes in the afternoon.

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