I was surprised to read in The Born-Einstein Letters that Einstein had proposed his own interpretation of Schroedinger’s Wave Theory. I had never come across this proposal before. Einstein’s idea, what we might call the Ensemble-Wave Theory, is basically Born’s statistical interpretation of the wave-like behavior of electrons, tweaked to allow back into the mix Causation and Objective Reality.
I have always felt a sympathetic vibration towards Einstein’s rebellion against a causeless universe, and towards his persistent belief that there exists an objective, underlying reality beneath our own world of perceptions and lack of perceptions.
So though I was surprised to learn that Einstein had proposed this Ensemble-Wave Theory –of which no one speaks– I was not surprised to find it worthy of serious consideration, although I come at it from a different angle than Albert. I’ll explain why I accept his theory as a real possibility in just a bit, but first, let’s remind ourselves, in very broad strokes, of the history of the Wave Theory of matter…
According to Born, De Broglie had proposed that Electrons were not particles but waves… not metaphorical, not metaphysical, but real, physical waves of… something (the default, generic term “Energy” being one interpretation).
Schroedinger developed de Broglie’s Wave Mechanics in detail for the Hydrogen atom (though his mathematical descriptions result in overwhelming complications when one attempts to use them to account for the interactions of atoms with several “electrons”). What appear to us as “particles” are actually, claimed Schroedinger, “Wave-Packets.” Schroedinger’s wave-math did not leave gaps where solutions were undefined, as did Heisenberg’s Matrix Math explication of the Particle-Electron, so there was no need to invent and maintain the “Quantum Leap.”
Born, however, went another way with de Broglie’s Electron-Waves and Schrodinger’s Wave Function. Born denied that such apparent waves were truly physical, but instead, they represented the probability-array of possible states which an electron could occupy at any given instant. Besides, he and others pointed-out that Schroedinger’s Wave-Packets would actually not stay together as something particle-appearing as they moved through space but would disperse.
Born was thus able to maintain his belief in the Particle-Electron and in Quantum Leaps. More importantly, he gave other physicists cover to maintain their own beliefs such things and so to keep the evolving new orthodoxy of physics from unraveling. Twenty-eight years after Born had proposed his Probability-Wave Theory, his statistical interpretation of quantum mechanics had become the accepted interpretation, and he was finally awarded the Nobel Prize.
Einstein, himself, never accepted this probability game, stating famously that God does not play “dice” with the Universe. He believed that the paths taken by matter through space were never arbitrary, but that each effect had its (at least theoretically) traceable cause.
What Einstein proposed was that Born’s statistical interpretation of matter’s observed wave-pattern of behavior was actually a description of a system, not of a particular particle. Einstein wrote Born that if one regards the wave-function “as the description of an Ensemble, it furnishes statements– as far as we can judge– which correspond satisfactorily to those of classical mechanics, and at the same time account for the quantum structure of reality.”
As some of you may have read in a previous post or two, you know that I believe that the particles that physicists, using their gargantuan smashers, coax to shoot out from atoms do not maintain their integrity as individual particles within the atom; and that, in a sense, physicists create these particles when they force their exit from the atom.
The angle from which I come at Einstein’s proposal is this… What Einstein calls Ensemble behavior lines-up well with my own view that it is wrong to talk about the behavior of individual particles maintaining their outside-identity within the atom. On the other hand, scientists are totally qualified today to speak of the behavior of the total atom… of the Ensemble. What precisely is going in inside of a whole atom, we do not know. And, as has been said by others before me… of that which we do not know, we should not speak.