Quantum Mechanics charming genial minds
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Jueves, 21 de Octubre de 2010 07:57

Ettore MajoranaMelania Barile nos trae a la memoria a su compatriota y genial físico Ettore Majorana a través del siguiente artículo. 

Melania Barile

 

The development of Quantum Mechanics in the 1930s deeply signed the consciousness of the scientists and their conception of Nature, changing their perspective towards the investigation of phenomena. But the new, revolutionary point of view only dealt with physical matters, and no possible links to other fields of knowledge were worked out until the foreseeing ideas proposed by physicist Ettore Majorana.

 

Majorana was an Italian theoretic physicist and one of the fathers of quantum and nuclear physics. Some of his most relevant achievements are: the theoretical discovery of the characteristic of the neutrons (not ascribed to him because of his refusal to publish his results); the generalization of the consequence of  Dirac’s equation according to which a particle of spin ½ has an antiparticle to every kind of particle, regardless of its spin; the prediction of the existence of neutrino and its behaviour as a spinor particle in order to give account of the continuum spectre of the b-decay…

 

 

Unfortunately, Majorana’s fame is more connected to his mysterious disappearance during a boat travel rather than to his scientific outcomes, and he has become a sort of legendary character, first involved in political and spying  affairs, then retired to religious isolation and finally disappeared.

 

What is too often ignored about him is instead his interest in philosophy, economy and mainly social behaviour of human beings. In his last article (published posthumous), “The value of Statistical Laws in Physics and in Social Sciences”, he proposes an interpretation of every phenomenon, both natural and social, as governed by the fundamental postulates of Quantum Mechanics, justifying this daring assumption by invoking the principle of unity of Nature, together with the evidence of Quantum theory, which he considered to be the most natural approach ever adopted by scientists.

 

The point he stressed the most was that the classical attitude in considering Nature s governed by deterministic laws is naïve or even obtuse will to control phenomena; he blamed classical statistics for ascribing indeterminateness to the impossibility of dealing with microscopic object rather than to the intrinsic indeterminateness of objects themselves. His belief in such a conception was so strong he denied the possibility of a deterministic description even for an elementary system, and definitely not for what concerns human systems of any kind, the human kind being  far more complex than elementary particles. On the other hand Majorana considered Quantum Mechanics as an irreducible statistical theory because the theory is not able to describe the time evolution of a single particle or atom in a controlled environment at a deterministic level, for which he found it remarkable. He concluded that quantum mechanics suggests that there is an “essential analogy between physics and the social sciences, between which an identity of value and method has turned out”. That is, he prospected an investigation of society with the Quantum formalism! Unfortunately he disappeared before explicating what he bared in mind. He provided some hint by writing down: “The disintegration of a radioactive atom can force an automatic counter to detect it with a mechanical effect, which is possible thanks to a suitable amplification. Common laboratory set-ups are therefore sufficient to prepare whatever complex chain of rich phenomena, which is controlled by an accidental disintegration of a single radioactive atom. From a scientific point of view nothing prevents to consider that an equally simple, invisible and unpredictable vital fact could be found at the origin of human events. If this is true, as we believe it is, the statistical laws of social sciences increase their function. Their function is not only to empirically establish the resultant of a great number of unknown causes but above all to provide an immediate and concrete evidence of reality. The interpretation of this evidence requires a special art, which is an important support of the art of government. 

 

If such ideas could at first seem peculiar, it’s interesting to point out that nowadays they are being recovered in different fields such as economy (econophysics) and neurobiology:  “It is tempting, indeed irresistible, to think that the explanation of the conscious experience of free will must be a manifestation of quantum indeterminism at the level of conscious rational decision making. Previously I never could see the point of introducing quantum mechanics into discussions of consciousness. But here at least is a strict argument requiring the introduction of quantum indeterminateness”, said biologist John Searle.

 

So Ettore Majorana, brilliant physicist, could be considered a precursor of a modern theory affecting fields barely related to his own, even if, indeed, his conception of unity of phenomena as the only one coherent with the human consciousness accounts for the his pioneer works’ recent success. 

 

Melania Barile, 18 de octubre de 2010 

 

 

Actualizado ( Jueves, 21 de Octubre de 2010 08:13 )
 
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