Category: History

Bohm in Exile

“Science and exile: David Bohm, the hot times of the Cold War, and his struggle for a new interpretation of quantum mechanics” by Olival Freire Jr. [arXiv:physics/0508184v1]

Bohm’s causal interpretation was not well received when he proposed it in the foundational 1952 manuscripts with appeared in the Physical Review.  Freire examines some of the reasons why Bohm’s theory met with such opposition.  As a result of the McCarthy “witch hunt” Bohm left the US in 1951 for Brazil.  Freire argues that neither McCarthyism nor Bohm’s political exile were major factors in the rejection of his theory.  Bohm’s theory was not popular because of bias do the “culture of physics.”  And to no small degree due to the active opposition of Léon Rosenfeld who took on the task of combating the causal interpretation as a personal crusade.

Freire also discusses attempts to fit the causal interpretation into the program of dialectical materialism.

The information presented in this 55 page paper is of historical interest. Freire shows just how significant Bohm’s contribution to physics is and in the closing paragraph characterizes the role of Bohm and John Bell as analogous to Kepler and Newton (respectively).  Bell’s inequalities together with Aspect’s experiments demonstrating that nature is fundamentally nonlocal is a major advance in physics.  Bohm’s theory set the stage for this breakthrough.