Nietzsche for physicists

J. C. S. Neves
One of the most important philosophers in the history, the German Friedrich Nietzsche, is almost ignored by physicists. The author who stated the death of God in 19th century was a science enthusiast, mainly during the second part of his work. With the aid of the physical concept of force, Nietzsche created his concept of will to power. Thinking about the energy conservation, the German philosopher had some inspiration for creating his concept of the eternal recurrence.
In this article, one points out some influences of physics on Nietzsche and discusses the topicality of his epistemological position, the perspectivism. From the concept of will to power, I propose that the perspectivism leads to the interpretation where physics, and science in general, is viewed as a game.
Read more at https://arxiv.org/pdf/1611.08193v1.pdf

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Eugene Paul Wigner’s Nobel Prize

Y.S. Kim
In 1963, Eugene Paul Wigner was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his contributions to the theory of the atomic nucleus and the elementary particles, particularly through the discovery and application of fundamental symmetry principles. There are no disputes about this statement. On the other hand, there still is a question of why the statement did not mention Wigner’s 1939 paper on the Lorentz group, which was regarded by Wigner and many others as his most important contribution in physics. By many physicists, this paper was regarded as a mathematical exposition having nothing to do with physics. However, it has been more than one half century since 1963, and it is of interest to see what progress has been made toward understanding physical implications of this paper and its historical role in physics. Wigner in his 1963 paper defined the subgroups of the Lorentz group whose transformations do not change the four-momentum of a given particle, and he called them the little groups. Thus, Wigner’s little groups are for internal space-time symmetries of particles in the Lorentz-covariant world. Indeed, this subgroup can explain the electron spin and spins of other massive particles. However, for massless particles, there was a gap between his little group and electromagnetic waves derivable Maxwell’s equations. This gap was not completely removed until 1990. The purpose of this report is to review the stormy historical process in which this gap is cleared. It is concluded that Wigner’s little groups indeed can be combined into one Lorentz-covariant formula which can dictate the symmetry of the internal space-time time symmetries of massive and massless particles in the Lorentz covariant world, just like Einstein’s energy-momentum relation applicable to both slow and massless particles.
Read more at https://arxiv.org/pdf/1610.01740v1.pdf

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Werner Heisenberg and the German Uranium Project 1939 – 1945

Myths and Facts

Klaus Gottstein
The results of a careful analysis of all the available information on the activities of Heisenberg and of his talks during the years 1939 to 1945 can be summarized in the following way. Like several other German physicists Heisenberg was drafted by German Army Ordnance when war began in Europe in September 1939 to investigate whether the energy from splitting Uranium nuclei by neutrons could be used for technical and military purposes. Heisenberg found that this is possible in principle but that military use would require such enormous industrial expenditures that it would take many years and would be impracticable while the war lasted. The project was therefore dropped by the Nazi government in 1942. Heisenberg even refrained from calculating a precise value for the critical mass of U 235. He was relieved that he was thus spared a moral decision between obeying an order to build the bomb or risking his life by refusing to be involved in the project or sabotaging it. He was happy to be confined to a project of building a small test reactor under civilian administration that the government had approved. In 1941 Heisenberg tried to get the opinion of Niels Bohr in Copenhagen on what the international community of nuclear physicist could possibly do or prevent regarding the long-range technical feasibility of making nuclear weapons. Bohr completely misunderstood the cautious approach of Heisenberg.
read more at https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1609/1609.02775.pdf

The dangers of non-empirical confirmation

Carlo Rovelli
In the book “String Theory and the Scientific Method”, Richard Dawid describes a few of the many non-empirical arguments that motivate theoretical physicists’ confidence in a theory, taking string theory as case study. I argue that excessive reliance on non-empirical evidence compromises the reliability of science, and that precisely the case of string theory well illustrates this danger.

Read more at http://arxiv.org/pdf/1609.01966v1.pdf

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Bringing quantum mechanics to life: from Schrödinger’s cat to Schrödinger’s microbe

Zhang-qi Yin, Tongcang Li
The question whether quantum mechanics is complete and the nature of the transition between quantum mechanics and classical mechanics have intrigued physicists for decades. There have been many experimental breakthroughs in creating larger and larger quantum superposition and entangled states since Erwin Schr\”{o}dinger proposed his famous thought experiment of putting a cat in a superposition of both alive and dead states in 1935. Remarkably, recent developments in quantum optomechanics and electromechanics may lead to the realization of quantum superposition of living microbes soon. Recent evidences also suggest that quantum coherence may play an important role in several biological processes. In this review, we first give a brief introduction to basic concepts in quantum mechanics and the Schr\”{o}dinger’s cat thought experiment. We then review developments in creating quantum superposition and entangled states and the realization of quantum teleportation. Non-trivial quantum effects in photosynthetic light harvesting and avian magnetoreception are also discussed. At last, we review recent proposals to realize quantum superposition, entanglement and state teleportation of microorganisms, such as viruses and bacteria.
Read more at http://arxiv.org/pdf/1608.05322v1.pdf

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Is General Relativity a (partial) Return of Aristotelian Physics?

Herbert Pietschmann
Aristotle has split physics at the sphere of the moon; above this sphere there is no change except eternal spherical motion, below are two different kinds of motion: Natural motion (without specific cause) and enforced motion. In modern view motion is caused by gravity and by other forces. The split at the sphere of the moon has been definitely overcome through the observation of a supernova and several comets by Tycho Brahe. The second distinction was eradicated by Isaak Newton who showed that gravitational motion was caused by a force proportional to the inverse square of the distance. By the theory of General Relativity, Albert Einstein showed that there is no gravitational force but motion under gravity (i.e. Aristotles ) is caused by the curved geometry of spacetime. In this way, the Aristotelian distinction between natural motion and enforced motion has come back in the form of two great theories: General Relativity and Quantum Field Theory which are today incompatible. To find a way out of this dilemma is the challenge of modern physics.
Read more at https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1604/1604.06491.pdf

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Spooky Action at No Distance: On the individuation of quantum mechanical systems

David Weinbaum
Recent experiments have perfectly verified the fact that quantum correlations between two entangled particles are stronger than any classical, local pre-quantum worldview allows. This is famously called the EPR paradox first conceived as a thought experiment and decades later realized in the lab. We discuss in depth the nature of the paradox and show that the problematics it presents is first and foremost epistemological. After briefly exploring resolutions to the paradox that after many decades of discourse still remain controversial, we argue that the paradox is rooted in the failure of our current metaphysical scheme, being the foundation of our knowledge, to accommodate and cohere our knowledge of the phenomena of entanglement. We then develop and make the case for a novel and more fundamental resolution of the paradox by changing the underlying metaphysical foundation from one based on individuals to a one based on individuation. We discuss in detail how in the light of this new scheme concepts central to the paradox such as realism, causality and locality are adjusted to the effect that the paradox is resolved without giving up these concepts so fundamental to our thinking. We conclude with a brief note about the important role of metaphysics to the progress of knowledge and our understanding of reality.
Read more at http://arxiv.org/pdf/1604.06775v1.pdf