Erroneous Proof Changed History

Well, maybe.  I learned of the existence of an alternate model for quantum behavior as I followed the story of a NASA test propulsion system that defies Newton’s Third Law.  The idea named Bohmian mechanics is based on something called pilot-wave theory and has been around since the time of Louis de Broglie in the 1920’s.  Ever since it has popped up occasionally, usually because some  counter-intuitive results predicted by  the standard Copenhagen model.

In 1932 John Von Neumann, the famous and formidable mathematician,  “proved” that a result of Bohmian mechanics was impossible thus putting the theory to bed for, it turns out, 30 or so years at which time John Stewart Bell found errors in Von Neumann’s proof.  A few more details to this story can be found here.

The title of this post expresses in some way a triviality.  Any action in the present changes the course of events in the future – see every time-traveling science fiction movie.  It’s just that we cannot know the magnitude of the resultant ripples in time. Yet, if the alternate theory of quantum behavior has been studied and deepened over that gap of more than 30 years might we not have other wonderful inventions like electromagnetic drive (if it works?)


About jrh794

I am a sixty-five year old math instructor at Southern Oregon University. I taught at the College of the Siskiyous in Weed California for twenty-six years. Prior to that I worked as a computer programmer, carpenter and in various other jobs. I graduated from Rice University in 1967 and have a MS in Operations Research from Stanford. In the past I have hand-built a stone house and taken long solo bicycle tours. Now I ride my mountain bike and play golf for recreation.
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