Saturday, October 18, 2008

Chapter Three, Part Three

“I’m blind!” the attendant screamed. “I don’t think I have much choice in the matter.” “There’s no time for a doctor.” This situation is so obvious that I sometimes have the vague hope it may even filter through to Hitler himself, and that he may have second thoughts about starting a war. But this is probably pure wishful thinking on my part. For Hitler is irrational and simply shuts his eyes to anything he does not want to see. Nor did he add that there might never be time for a doctor again. “No, certainly not,” Dr. Solovaichick replied. After all, it is almost the essence of an experiment that the observations can be described with the concepts of classical physics. Watkins did not know the man. Dr. Solovaichick was not entirely satisfied. “I think you may find it difficult to apply your analogy to physics. For my part, I can readily agree with the positivists about the things they want, but not about the things they reject. Let me explain.” 

“Get away from me! Don’t touch me.” Jerking free, the attendant fumbled his way into the shack on the lot. After we had been looking for possible experimental mistakes for some time, I said to Dr. Solovaichik: “Isn’t it odd that, throughout this discussion, no one should have mentioned quantum theory? We behave as if the electrically charged particles were an object like an electrically charged oil droplet, or like a pith ball in an old electroscope. We quite unthinkingly use the concepts of classical physics, as if we had never heard of the limitations of these concepts and of uncertainty relations. Isn’t that bound to lead to errors?” Tom did not wait to see more. Despite the convulsion of scientific life at home and abroad caused by Hitler’s rise to power, atomic physics developed with astonishing rapidity. He knew that in seconds, before he could get it turned around, it might be so much twisted metallic junk. “Because they are objects. Without objects there can be no objective science. And what objects are is determined by such categories as substance, causality, etc. If you renounce the strict application of these categories, then you also renounce the possibility of experience in general.” He headed for the shelter, running all the way.

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