Postechian's Pick: Physics and Beyond
Postechian's Pick: Physics and Beyond
  • Reporter Kim Jin-Seong
  • 승인 2023.04.17 19:16
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▲Physics and Beyond (1972)
Physics and Beyond (1972)

 Der Teil und das Ganze, the original title of the book Physics and Beyond was so cool, and I could not resist reading it. Although it was hard to fully understand what the author, Werner Heisenberg, wanted to say, the book sure did change my mind and behavior toward science. 
 Physics and Beyond is a book composed of thoughts of Heisenberg and his conversation with other scientists like Bohr and Pauli. They mainly talk about philosophical and political subjects based on theories of atoms and how to get to reality through observation and analysis of phenomena. 
 Physics and Beyond narrate the theory of atoms, the deeply related philosophy, and the circumstances Heisenberg underwent at the time, making us think about the real meaning of the origin of matter. Each character had various opinions, and it was interesting that all opinions were meaningful and partially identical to what readers may have in mind or what is acceptable to their thoughts. The book showed that the development process of science was not dichotomous. I felt a great urge to ask the characters directly during their conversations about philosophy and science.
 The most impressive part is the consideration of understanding and meaning. Readers could face a new theory that people do not directly perceive objects but change through polymorphism into meaningful “representations.” I wondered how to consider the “representations” of atoms that could be mathematical and abstract if it is impossible to describe the atoms' structure clearly. I wanted to learn more and understand what the word “understand” means to physicists and intuitively understand the atom's structure someday. Starting to think about the meaning and connotations of mathematical formulas, the history of science helped me a great deal.
 Since childhood, a lot of unprofessional pseudoscience stories have been spread widely. Among the stories, there were some common grounds with the book. If someone continues to divide a substance, they will reach a discontinuous form, not an objective form that is generally thought of, but a mathematical and abstract form. It was awkward and irresponsible to say something in an abstract form and move on. The author says it is vital in physics to maintain the scientific meaning implied in mathematical things such as formulas and operations.
 At the 1927 Solvay Conference, although Einstein was not opposed to making probabilistic statements if they were not aware of all the determinants of the relevant system, he refused to acknowledge that it was fundamentally impossible to know all the determinants necessary to fully define the status quo, the quantum theory we learn today. When scientists observe the same system and once the quantum superposition or the wave function collapse, the system must be measured to the same state over a period. The quote “God does not play dice with the universe.” rings true in this situation. This part of the book implies that giving up the ideas that have been the basis of one's thinking is challenging.
 In Anglosphere, the word “thread” usually reminds one of a bundle of white threads. The silver thread can stand out among the white threads and give the impression of removing it. The silver thread refers to the limitations and loopholes of Bohr's atomic model, such as theoretical problems and contradictions. It was striking that if scientists follow this silver thread, they can find the loopholes in the current dominating theory. The author suggests studying and researching with the goal to find the silver thread and to not lose it, like questioning professors about what students disagree or do not understand.