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The development during the present century is characterized by two theoretical systems essentially independent of each other: the theory of relativity and the quantum theory. The two systems do not directly contradict each other; but they seem little adapted to fusion into one unified theory. For the time being we have to admit that we do not possess any general theoretical basis for physics which can be regarded as its logical foundation. If, then, it is true that the axiomatic basis of theoretical physics cannot be extracted from experience but must be freely invented, can we ever hope to find the right way? I answer without hesitation that there is, in my opinion, a right way, and that we are capable of finding it. I hold it true that pure thought can grasp reality, as the ancients dreamed.

-- Albert Einstein, second greatest physicist of the 20th century, 1954


Man on TV: Tonight, on FOX: 'When Dinosaurs Get Drunk'...

Homer: Hmmm... (The dinosaur walks into the tar pit.)

Homer: Heh, heh, heh. Oh, I've been there, man.

Man on TV: ...has been cancelled.

Homer: Huh???

Man on TV: Instead, we bring you 'The Boring World of Niels Bohr'.

Homer: *splats his ice cream sandwich at the TV* My ice cream sandwich! AND WHERE THE HELL IS THE REMOTE? *talks angrily and tears the couch*

-- Dialogue from "I am a Furious Yellow", Episode #DABF13 of "The Simpsons"


It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how Nature is. Physics concerns what we say about Nature.

-- Niels Bohr, greatest physicist of the 20th century


"A new scientific truth does not establish itself by its enemies being convinced and expressing their change of opinion, but rather by its enemies gradually dying out and the younger generation being taught the truth from the beginning.” -- Max Planck

"... an act of despair ... I was ready to sacrifice any of my previous convictions about physics …”

“a purely formal assumption ... actually I did not think much about it..."

s ren kierkegaard
Søren Kierkegaard

The Bohr-Einstein Debate/Discussion/Exchange on Quantum Mechanics, 1925-1935 (and beyond)

Ernst Mach


“I knew of [Heisenberg's] theory, of course, but I felt discouraged, not to say repelled, by the methods of transcendental algebra, which appeared difficult to me, and by the lack of visualizability.”

“The more I think about the physical portion of Schrodinger's theory, the more repulsive I find it...What Schrodinger writes about the visualizability of his theory 'is probably not quite right,' in other words it's crap.”


Since my talks with Bohr often continued till long after midnight and did not produce a satisfactory conclusion, ...both of us became utterly exhausted and rather tense…

I had no faith in a theory that ran completely counter to our Copenhagen conception.

--Heisenberg, recollection


Niels sez…

Your theory is crazy, but it's not crazy enough to be true.

Every sentence I utter must be understood not as an affirmation, but as a question.

How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress.

No, no, you're not thinking, you're just being logical.

The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.

Never express yourself more clearly than you think.

We are suspended in language in such a way that we cannot say what is up and what is down. The word “reality” is also a word, a word which we must learn to use correctly.

When it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. The poet, too, is not nearly so concerned with describing facts as with creating images.


“It is therefore not, as is often assumed, a question of reinterpretation of quantum mechanics—the present system of quantum mechanics would have to be objectively false, in order that another description of the elementary processes than the statistical one be possible.”

J. Von Neumann, 1932, proving the impossibility of “hidden variable” theories.

“The von Neumann proof, if you actually come to grips with it, falls apart in your hands! There is nothing to it. It’s not just flawed, it’s silly!...When you translate [his assumptions] into terms of physical description, they’re nonsense. You may quote me on that: The proof of von Neumann is not merely false but foolish!”

J.S. Bell, commenting on his 1964 paper