Statistical explanation in physics: The copenhagen interpretation

Synthese 21 (1):65 - 82 (1970)
The statistical aspects of quantum explanation are intrinsic to quantum physics; individual quantum events are created in the interactions associated with observation and are not describable by predictive theory. The superposition principle shows the essential difference between quantum and non-quantum physics, and the principle is exemplified in the classic single-photon two-slit interference experiment. Recently Mandel and Pfleegor have done an experiment somewhat similar to the optical single-photon experiment but with two independently operated lasers; interference is obtained even with beam intensity so small that only one photon is in the apparatus at a time. The result can be understood in terms of the superposition of states; or, in terms of the Uncertainty Principle, which is found to forbid the determination of which of the two lasers is the source of a given photon (if conditions for interference are to obtain). The Mandel-Pfleegor experiment gives a physical argument against the continuous localization of a photon that is assumed in the hidden variable theories and therefore gives further support for the generally accepted view that an observed entity (observed state) is created in the observation event. This aspect of quantum physics implies a subjectivism on the level of individual quantum-level occurrences, since there is in quantum theory no basis for asserting the existence of the event independently of observation of it. Extension of this subjectivism to large scale, non-quantum phenomena falls within the principles of quantum theory; counter considerations that argue against such an extension are noted.
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DOI 10.1007/BF00414188
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