Quantum Mechanics

Edited by Michael Cuffaro (Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München)
Assistant editor: Radin Dardashti (Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München, University of Wuppertal)
About this topic
Summary Issues in the philosophy of quantum mechanics include first and foremost, its interpretation. Probably the most well-known of these is the 'orthodox' Copenhagen interpretation associated with Neils Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Wolfgang Pauli, John von Neumann, and others. Beginning roughly at the midway point of the previous century, philosophers' attention began to be drawn towards alternative interpretations of the theory, including Bohmian mechanics, the relative state formulation of quantum mechanics and its variants (i.e., DeWit's "many worlds" variant, Albert and Loewer's "many minds" variant, etc.), and the dynamical collapse family of theories. One particular interpretational issue that has attracted very much attention since the seminal work of John Bell, is the issue of the extent to which quantum mechanical systems do or do not admit of a local realistic description. Bell's investigation of the properties of entangled quantum systems, inspired by the famous thought experiment of Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen, seems to lead one to the conclusion that the only realistic "hidden variables" interpretation compatible with the quantum mechanical formalism is a nonlocal one. In recent years, some of the attention has focused on applications of quantum mechanics and their potential for illuminating quantum foundations. These include the sciences of quantum information and quantum computation. Additional areas of research include philosophical investigation into the extensions of nonrelativistic quantum mechanics (such as quantum electrodynamics and quantum field theory more generally), as well as more formal logico-mathematical investigations into the structure of quantum states, state spaces, and their dynamics.
Key works Bohr 1928 and Heisenberg 1930 expound upon what has since become known as the 'Copenhagen interpretation' of quantum mechanics. The famous 'EPR' thought experiment of Einstein et al 1935 aims to show that quantum mechanics is an incomplete theory which should be supplemented by additional ('hidden') parameters. Bohr 1935 replies. More on Bohr's views can be found in Faye 1991, Folse 1985. Inspired by the EPR thought experiment, Bell 2004 [1964] proves what has since become known as "Bell's theorem." This, and a related result due to Kochen & Specker 1967 serve to revive the discussion of hidden variables and alternative interpretations of quantum mechanics. Jarrett 1984 analyses the key "factorisability" assumption Bell uses to derive his theorem into two distinct sub-assumptions, which Jarrett refers to as "locality" and "completeness". Two important volumes dedicated to the topics of entanglement and nonlocality are Cushing & McMullin 1989 and Maudlin 2002. Among the more discussed alternative interpretations of quantum mechanics are: Bohmian mechanics (Bohm 1952, and see also Cushing et al 1996), and Everett's relative state formulation (Everett Iii 1973). The latter gives rise to many variants, including the many worlds, many minds, and decoherence-based approaches (see Saunders et al 2010). Other notable interpretations and alternative theories include dynamical collapse theories (Ghirardi et al 1986), as well as the Copenhagen-inspired QBist view (Fuchs 2003, Fuchs 2010). An attempt to axiomatize quantum mechanics in terms of information theoretic constraints, and a discussion of the relevance of this for the interpretation of quantum mechanics is given in Clifton et al 2002. Discussion of this and other issues in quantum information theory can be found in: Timpson 2004. Key works in the philosophy of quantum field theory include: Redhead 1995, Redhead 1994, Ruetsche 2011, Teller 1995.
Introductions Hughes 1989 is an excellent introduction to the formalism and interpretation of quantum mechanics. Albert 1992 is another, which focuses particularly on the problem of measurement in quantum mechanics.
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  1. “The Language of Dirac’s Theory of Radiation”: The Inception and Initial Reception of a Tool for the Quantum Field Theorist.Markus Ehberger - forthcoming - Archive for History of Exact Sciences.
    In 1927, Paul Dirac first explicitly introduced the idea that electrodynamical processes can be evaluated by decomposing them into virtual, energy non-conserving subprocesses. This mode of reasoning structured a lot of the perturbative evaluations of quantum electrodynamics during the 1930s. Although the physical picture connected to Feynman diagrams is no longer based on energy non-conserving transitions but on off-shell particles, emission and absorption subprocesses still remain their fundamental constituents. This article will access the introduction and the initial reception of this (...)
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  2. Knowledge of the Quantum Domain: An Overlap Strategy.James Duncan Fraser & Peter Vickers - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.
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  3. Toppling the Pyramids: Physics Without Physical State Monism.William Simpson & Simon Horsley - 2022 - In Christopher J. Austin, Anna Marmodoro & Andrea Roselli (eds.), Powers, Time and Free Will. pp. 17–50.
    In this paper, we challenge a wide-spread assumption among philosophers that contemporary physics supports physical state monism. This is the claim that the causal powers of a system supervene upon the ‘lower-level’ laws and the lower-level state of the cosmos (as represented by our ‘best physics’). On this view, it makes sense to ignore a macroscopic system’s higher-level properties in determining its causal powers, since any higher-level powers are merely artifacts of our special interests. We argue that this assumption is (...)
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  4. Wojciech Sady: The Structure of the Relativity and Quantum Revolution in Physics.Andrzej Łukasik, Marcin Gileta & Sebastian Kozera - 2022 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 53 (2):223-229.
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  5. Random World and Quantum Mechanics.Jerzy Król, Krzysztof Bielas & Torsten Asselmeyer-Maluga - forthcoming - Foundations of Science:1-51.
    Quantum mechanics predicts probabilities on the fundamental level which are, via Born probability law, connected to the formal randomness of infinite sequences of QM outcomes. Recently it has been shown that QM is algorithmic 1-random in the sense of Martin–Löf. We extend this result and demonstrate that QM is algorithmic \-random and generic, precisely as described by the ’miniaturisation’ of the Solovay forcing to arithmetic. This is extended further to the result that QM becomes Zermelo–Fraenkel Solovay random on infinite-dimensional Hilbert (...)
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  6. The Bohmian Approach to the Problems of Cosmological Quantum Fluctuations.Sheldon Goldstein, Ward Struyve & Roderich Tumulka - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.
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  7. From Data to Quanta: Niels Bohr’s Vision of Physics - Perović Slobodan (2021), Chicago: University of Chicago Press. [REVIEW]Petar Nurkić - 2022 - Synesis 3 (1):85-90.
  8. The Vienna Circle Against Quantum Speculations.Marij van Strien - forthcoming - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science.
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  9. There Are No Saints, Or: Quantum Multilocation.Claudio Calosi - forthcoming - Grazer Philosophische Studien:1-20.
    Multilocation – the notion of an object being at two places – is a central notion in metaphysics. According to a widespread view, multilocation is problematic but metaphysically possible. In effect, it has been claimed that in a quantum world, multilocation is not simply possible but actual. This article provides a new argument against the latter claim: there is no quantum multilocation.
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  10. Paul Feyerabend and the Dialectical Character of Quantum Mechanics: A Lesson in Philosophical Dadaism.Rory Kent - forthcoming - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science:1-17.
    In 1966, Paul Feyerabend published a short essay on the relation between dialectical materialist philosophy and Niels Bohr’s quantum theory, in which he develops several provocative ideas about the...
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  11. Complex-Valued Classical Behavior from the Correspondence Limit of Quantum Mechanics with Two Boundary Conditions.Yakir Aharonov & Tomer Shushi - 2022 - Foundations of Physics 52 (3):1-7.
    The two-state-vector formalism presents a time-symmetric approach to the standard quantum mechanics, with particular importance in the description of experiments having pre- and post-selected ensembles. In this paper, using the correspondence limit of the quantum harmonic oscillator in the two-state-vector formalism, we produce harmonic oscillators that possess a classical behavior while having a complex-valued position and momentum. This allows us to discover novel effects that cannot be achieved otherwise. The proposed classical behavior does not describe the classical physics in the (...)
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  12. Typical: A Theory of Typicality and Typicality Explanation.Isaac Wilhelm - 2022 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 73 (2):561-581.
    Typicality is routinely invoked in everyday contexts: bobcats are typically short-tailed; people are typically less than seven feet tall. Typicality is invoked in scientific contexts as well: typical gases expand; typical quantum systems exhibit probabilistic behaviour. And typicality facts like these support many explanations, both quotidian and scientific. But what is it for something to be typical? And how do typicality facts explain? In this paper, I propose a general theory of typicality. I analyse the notion of a typical property. (...)
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  13. On the nature of quantum-chemical entities: the case of electron density.Jesus Alberto Jaimes Arriaga - forthcoming - Foundations of Chemistry:1-13.
    An Aristotelian philosophy of nature offers an alternative to reduction for the conception of the inter-theoretical relationships between molecular chemistry and quantum mechanics. A basic ingredient for such an approach is an ontology of fundamental causal powers, and this work aims to develop such an ontology by drawing on quantum-chemical entities, particularly, the electron density. This notion is central to the Quantum Theory of Atoms in Molecules, a theory of molecular structure developed by Richard F. W. Bader, which describes molecules (...)
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  14. Quantum algorithms for simulation of quantum chemistry problems by quantum computers: an appraisal.Smriti Sharma - forthcoming - Foundations of Chemistry:1-14.
    The ideas of quantum simulation and advances in quantum algorithms to solve quantum chemistry problems have been discussed. Theoretical proposals and experimental investigations both have been studied to gauge the extent to which quantum computation has been applied to solve quantum chemical problems till date. The distinctive features and limitations of the application of quantum simulation on chemical systems and current approaches to define and improve upon standard quantum algorithms have been studied in detail. The possibility and consequences of designing (...)
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  15. (May 2022 to 2014) The UNBELIEVABLE Similarities Between the Ideas of Some People (2011-2016) and My Ideas (2002-2008) in Physics (Quantum Mechanics, Cosmology), Cognitive Neuroscience, Philosophy of Mind, and Philosophy.Gabriel Vacariu -
    UNBELIEVABLE, many (hundreds) “great” or small thinkers did the same thing in 2006-2007 and later: they published the same ideas, UNBELIEVABLE similar to my ideas from 2002-2005! They believe they would be considered co-authors of the same new framework of thinking.
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  16. Quantum Technologies and Society: Towards a Different Spin.Christopher Coenen, Alexei Grinbaum, Armin Grunwald, Colin Milburn & Pieter Vermaas - 2022 - NanoEthics 16 (1):1-6.
    Due primarily to technological advances over the last decade, quantum research has become a key priority area for science and technology policy all over the world. With this manifesto, we wish to prevent quantum technology from running into fiascos of implementation at the interface of science and society. To this end, we identify key stumbling blocks and propose recommendations.
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  17. Wojciech Sady: The Structure of the Relativity and Quantum Revolution in Physics (Struktura Rewolucji Relatywistycznej I Kwantowej W Fizyce): Universitas: Kraków, 2020, 238 Pp., 42 PLN/10 EUR (Paperback), ISBN: 9788324264971. [REVIEW]Sebastian Kozera, Marcin Gileta & Andrzej Łukasik - 2022 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 53 (2):223-229.
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  18. Studien zum wissenschaftlichen Determinismus vor der Entstehung der Quantenmechanik. Von der klassischen Mechanik zur Philosophie Edgar Zilsels (“Studies in the history of scientific determinism before quantum mechanics. From classical mechanics to the philosophy of Edgar Zilsel”).Donata Romizi - 2013 - Dissertation, University of Vienna
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  19. Fare i conti con il caso. La probabilità e l’emergere dell’indeterminismo nella fisica moderna.Donata Romizi - 2009 - Bologna, Italien: Gedit.
    In this volume I offer a compact history of the concepts of probability and statistics as well as a review of the most relevant interpretations of these notions. In the second part of the volume I explore the meaning of probability, statistics and their interpretations with respect to the developement of physical theories - from classical mechanics to quantum mechanics. -/- (ISBN: 978-8889891322).
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  20. The One Magic Wave: Quantum Monism Meets Wavefunction Realism.Claudio Calosi - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.
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  21. Quantum B‐Modules.Xia Zhang & Wolfgang Rump - 2022 - Mathematical Logic Quarterly 68 (2):159-170.
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  22. Po1ntless: The Reality Behind Quantum Theory.R. W. Boyer - 2020 - Routledge India.
    This book examines how major interpretations of quantum theory are progressing toward a more unified understanding and experience of nature. It offers subtle insights to address core issues of wave-particle duality, the measurement problem, the mind/body problem, determinism/indeterminism/free will, and the nature of consciousness. It draws from physics, consciousness studies, and 'ancient Vedic science' to outline a new holistic interpretation of quantum theory. Accessible and thought-provoking, it will be profoundly integrating for scholars and researchers in science and technology, in philosophy, (...)
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  23. The General Principles of Quantum Theory.George Temple - 2014 - Routledge.
    Published in 1934, this monograph was one of the first introductory accounts of the principles which form the physical basis of the Quantum Theory, considered as a branch of mathematics. The exposition is restricted to a discussion of general principles and does not attempt detailed application to the wide domain of atomic physics, although a number of special problems are considered in elucidation of the principles. The necessary fundamental mathematical methods – the theory of linear operators and of matrics – (...)
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  24. The physicist inside the ambiguous room: an argument against the need of consciousness in the quantum mechanical measurement process.Carlo Roselli - 2022 - Foundations of Physics 52 (2):1-12.
    The aim of this paper is to invalidate the hypothesis that human consciousness is necessary in the quantum measurement process. In order to achieve this target, I propose a considerable modification of the Schrödinger’s cat and the Dead-Alive Physicist thought experiments, called “PIAR”, short for “Physicist Inside the Ambiguous Room”. A specific strategy has enabled me to plan the experiment in such a way as to logically justify the inconsistency of the above hypothesis and to oblige its supporters to rely (...)
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  25. Wholly Quantum.Armaghan Yari - 2020 - Dissertation, University of York
    Most theories of quantum mechanics do not offer clear yes/no empirical answers to all questions that seem at face value. The Many-Worlds Interpretation, originated by Hugh Everett in the late 1950s, is unique for its unambiguous envisioning of reality: our universe is one of the numerous parallel universes that frantically branch off from each other nanoseconds by nanoseconds. In many of these worlds, there exist exact replicas of you and me, all evolving independently. My thesis exhibition, entitled Wholly Quantum, articulates (...)
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  26. Control of the Phase of the Quantum Wave Function May Salvage Interactionist Dualism.Tal Hendel - manuscript
    Interactionist dualism is often rejected based on the claim that the physical world is causally closed. Another claim against interactionist dualism is that, were it to hold, it would violate energy/momentum conservation or the second law of thermodynamics. Here I show that the phase of the quantum wave function may provide a loophole in the causal closure of the world through which the mind can affect behavior without violating any physical law.
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  27. Entanglement, Complexity, and Causal Asymmetry in Quantum Theories.Porter Williams - 2022 - Foundations of Physics 52 (2):1-38.
    It is often claimed that one cannot locate a notion of causation in fundamental physical theories. The reason most commonly given is that the dynamics of those theories do not support any distinction between the past and the future, and this vitiates any attempt to locate a notion of causal asymmetry—and thus of causation—in fundamental physical theories. I argue that this is incorrect: the ubiquitous generation of entanglement between quantum systems grounds a relevant asymmetry in the dynamical evolution of quantum (...)
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  28. Conceptualizing Paradigms: On Reading Kuhn’s History of the Quantum.Jan Potters - forthcoming - Annals of Science:1-20.
    In this article, I discuss the criticisms raised against Thomas Kuhn’s Black-Body Theory. These criticisms concern two issues: how to understand Planck’s position with regards to the quantization of energy in 1901, and how to understand the book’s relation to The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Both criticisms, I argue, concern the notion of a paradigm: the first concerns how Boltzmann acted as an exemplar for Planck, and the second whether the book provides a paradigm change. I will then argue that (...)
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  29. The Dynamics of Perspective in Quantum Physics.Alexsandro Pereira & Jordi Solbes - 2022 - Science & Education 31 (2):427-450.
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  30. A Substructural Gentzen Calculus for Orthomodular Quantum Logic.Davide Fazio, Antonio Ledda, Francesco Paoli & Gavin St John - forthcoming - Review of Symbolic Logic:1-22.
    We introduce a sequent system which is Gentzen algebraisable with orthomodular lattices as equivalent algebraic semantics, and therefore can be viewed as a calculus for orthomodular quantum logic. Its sequents are pairs of non-associative structures, formed via a structural connective whose algebraic interpretation is the Sasaki product on the left-hand side and its De Morgan dual on the right-hand side. It is a substructural calculus, because some of the standard structural sequent rules are restricted—by lifting all such restrictions, one recovers (...)
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  31. Wittgenstein, Nāgārjuna and Relational Quantum Mechanics.Michael A. Peters - forthcoming - Educational Philosophy and Theory:1-10.
  32. Two Concepts of Noncontextuality in Quantum Mechanics.Gábor Hofer-Szabó - 2022 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 93:21-29.
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  33. Towards Noncommutative Quantum Reality.Otto C. W. Kong - 2022 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 92:186-195.
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  34. Entanglement and Indistinguishability in a Quantum Ontology of Properties.Sebastian Fortin & Olimpia Lombardi - 2022 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 91:234-243.
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  35. The Birth of Quantum Mechanics From the Spirit of Radiation Theory.Alexander S. Blum & Martin Jähnert - 2022 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 91:125-147.
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  36. Centering the Everett Interpretation.Isaac Wilhelm - forthcoming - Philosophical Quarterly.
    I propose an account of probability in the Everett interpretation of quantum mechanics. According to the account, probabilities are objective chances of centered propositions. As I show, the account solves a number of problems concerning the role of probability in the Everett interpretation. It also challenges an implicit assumption, concerning the aim and scope of fundamental physical theories, that is made throughout the philosophy of physics literature.
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  37. Review of Jeffrey A. Barrett’s The Conceptual Foundations of Quantum Mechanics - Jeffrey A. Barrett, The Conceptual Foundations of Quantum Mechanics. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2020), 272 Pp., $88.00. [REVIEW]Benjamin H. Feintzeig - 2022 - Philosophy of Science 89 (1):202-205.
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  38. Rethinking Einstein’s ‘Theory’.Ilexa Yardley - 2022 - Https://Medium.Com/the-Circular-Theory.
    E=mc2: What did he miss? Rethinking Einstein as a circular theory. Producing philosophical, physical, and psychological fusion.
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  39. The Equiareal Archimedean Synchronization Method of the Quantum Symplectic Phase Space: II. Circle-Valued Moment Map, Integrality, and Symplectic Abelian Shadows.Elias Zafiris - 2022 - Foundations of Physics 52 (2):1-32.
    The quantum transition probability assignment is an equiareal transformation from the annulus of symplectic spinorial amplitudes to the disk of complex state vectors, which makes it equivalent to the equiareal projection of Archimedes. The latter corresponds to a symplectic synchronization method, which applies to the quantum phase space in view of Weyl’s quantization approach involving an Abelian group of unitary ray rotations. We show that Archimedes’ method of synchronization, in terms of a measure-preserving transformation to an equiareal disk, imposes the (...)
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  40. Macroscopic Reality from Quantum Complexity.Don Weingarten - 2022 - Foundations of Physics 52 (2):1-103.
    Beginning with the Everett–DeWitt many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, there have been a series of proposals for how the state vector of a quantum system might split at any instant into orthogonal branches, each of which exhibits approximately classical behavior. Here we propose a decomposition of a state vector into branches by finding the minimum of a measure of the mean squared quantum complexity of the branches in the branch decomposition. In a non-relativistic formulation of this proposal, branching occurs repeatedly (...)
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  41. 8. Whitehead’s Highly Speculative Lectures on Quantum Theory.Ronny Desmet - 2020 - In Brian G. Henning & Joseph Petek (eds.), Whitehead at Harvard, 1924–1925. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 154-181.
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  42. 6. Quanta and Corpuscles: The Infl Uence of Quantum Mechanical Ideas on Whitehead’s Transitional Philosophy in Light of The Harvard Lectures.Gary L. Herstein - 2020 - In Brian G. Henning & Joseph Petek (eds.), Whitehead at Harvard, 1924–1925. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 117-131.
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  43. Dirac’s Book The Principles of Quantum Mechanics as an Alternative Way of Organizing a Theory.Antonino Drago - forthcoming - Foundations of Science:1-24.
    Authoritative appraisals have qualified this book as an “axiomatic” theory. However, given that its essential content is no more than an analogy, its theoretical organization cannot be axiomatic. Indeed, in the first edition Dirac declares that he had avoided an axiomatic presentation. Moreover, I show that the text aims to solve a basic problem. A previous paper analyzed all past theories of physics, chemistry and mathematics, presented by the respective authors non-axiomatically. Four characteristic features of a new model of organizing (...)
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  44. Trying an Alternative Ansatz to Quantum Physics.Arend Niehaus - 2022 - Foundations of Physics 52 (2):1-19.
    We report to which extent elementary particles and the nucleons can be described by an Ansatz that is alternative to the established standard model, and can still yield predicted results that reproduce the observed ones, without using the formalism of quantum mechanics. The different Ansatz is motivated by the attempt to explain known properties of elementary particles as a consequence of an inner structure, in contrast to the approach of the standard model, where the properties are ascribed to point-like particles. (...)
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  45. Philosophical Perspectives on Quantum Chemistry.Olimpia Lombardi, Juan Camilo Martínez & Sebastian Fortin (eds.) - forthcoming - Springer Cham.
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  46. The Metaphysics of Quantum Theory.Tim Maudlin - 2016 - Belgrade Philosophical Annual 29:5-13.
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  47. A Quantum Bridge Between Science and Spirituality: Toward a New Geometry of Consciousness.Subhash Sharma - 2021 - In Ananta Kumar Giri (ed.), Pragmatism, Spirituality and Society: New Pathways of Consciousness, Freedom and Solidarity. Springer Singapore. pp. 103-114.
    Broadly, there are two approaches to consciousness, viz. the scientific and the rishi. In the scientific approach, consciousness is an emergent phenomenon of matter. This can be referred to as the matter route to consciousness. In the rishi route, consciousness is an infused phenomenon wherein matter is infused with spirit. īśāvāsyamidaṃsarvaṃ, yatkiñcajagatyāṃjaga, Ishopanishad declares. It implies all matter is infused with consciousness. This can be referred to as the spirit route to consciousness. Now there is a need to combine the (...)
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  48. Ernest Nagel on Determinism as a Guiding Principle and Its Compatibility with Quantum Mechanics.Marij van Strien - 2021 - In Matthias Neuber & Adam Tamas Tuboly (eds.), Ernest Nagel: Philosophy of Science and the Fight for Clarity. Springer. pp. 149-170.
    According to Ernest Nagel, determinism is central to the scientific enterprise. Faced with the claim that determinism fails in quantum mechanics, Nagel proposed a notion of determinism which does not rely on a fundamental level of description, and can play a role in different scientific disciplines irrespective of their reducibility to physics. Nagel argues that determinism ultimately plays the role of a guiding principle in scientific research. In this way, Nagel argues that determinism has an enduring relevance in all domains (...)
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  49. Strong Determinism.Eddy Keming Chen - manuscript
    A strongly deterministic theory of physics is one that permits exactly one possible history of the universe. In the words of Penrose (1989), "it is not just a matter of the future being determined by the past; the entire history of the universe is fixed, according to some precise mathematical scheme, for all time.” Such an extraordinary feature may appear unattainable in any realistic and simple theory of physics. In this paper, I propose a definition of strong determinism and contrast (...)
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  50. Our Universe’s Fingerprint: Why Zero Point Radiation Occurs and Are Quantum Fluctuations Truly Random?David Angell - manuscript
    Absolute nothing is the absence of our universe and its laws. Without these rules, nothingness has infinite potential. This implies that within the infinite probability of nothing, infinity can emerge. This would be expressed through infinite universes like our own. Infinite of these universes will differ by several particles, appearing and disappearing for no reason other than fulfilling every possibility. This universe is the product of a greater realisation of infinity and we can test this theory via the measurement of (...)
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