.Questions (in red) answered by Carver Mead
And so mathematical description was substituted for understanding?
Absolutely. It’s conceptual nonsense. You can calculate stuff with the theory, but the words people put around it don’t make any sense. That had the effect of driving the more conceptually-oriented students out of physics. We have ended up with more and more mathematicians in the physics departments. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with mathematics—it’s the language we use to express the precise relations of physical law. But there is an increasing tendency to mistake the language for the physics itself. Once we lose the conceptual foundations, the whole thing becomes a shell game. There are very few conceptual workers left in the field. Feynman was one of the last ones, and he wasn’t willing to take on the Copenhagen clan. Nobody was, until we come to A. O. Barut, John Dowling, John Cramer, and a few others.
Quantum uncertainty undermined faith in science.
I think Einstein was being a scientist in the truest sense in his response to the Copenhagen interpretation. He said that none of us would be scientists if deep down we didn’t believe there is a set of regularities in the operation of physical law. That is a matter of faith. It is not something anybody has proven, but none of us would be scientists if we didn’t have that faith.
What you’re saying is that in a rush to declare science complete, Bohr & co. essentially defined away a key assumption of science?
Faith in physics was undermined. Generations of students were basically driven out of physics because it was no longer comprehensible.
Do you have any thoughts about gravitation?
Yes, I’ve been working on it quite actively. It’s funny—the most common force, everyone experiences it, and we just have no clue. It’s fascinating when you think about it. The two long-range forces that we have in nature are the electromagnetic force and the gravitational force. The first we understand better than anything in physics, and yet gravity—we basically have no clue what it is. It doesn’t fit with any of the other theories. It just gets pasted on. It’s really an acute embarrassment.