PHYS 354 001 – Quantum Weirdness and Reality

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Instructors: John Roberts and Jonathan Engel. This course meets Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 12:00 – 12:50 p.m. in Phillips 265.

NOTE: This is an interdisciplinary course designed to be co-taught by a physics professor and a philosophy professor. Our intention is to request that it be cross-listed, but there is presently a moratorium on requests for new cross-listing. Students who take this course and want to use it toward their philosophy major or minor may do so; it will be treated as if it were numbered “PHIL 354.”

This is an introductory course on the weirdness in quantum mechanics and the philosophical problem of interpreting the theory. Quantum mechanics is perhaps the most empirically successful scientific theory yet produced, but it has strange implications and poses serious puzzles about what it means. This course is designed as an introduction to the weird phenomena and to the problem of distilling from the theory a coherent account of what the world is like. The course has no specific prerequisites, but it is best suited for students who have either taken an introductory physics course or at least one course in philosophy other than logic. A certain amount of mathematical facility is important: Students should be comfortable with algebra and basic probability theory; courses in calculus would be helpful though aren’t strictly necessary. Topics covered will include the basic formalism of quantum mechanics in Dirac’s notation, the Copenhagen interpretation, entangled states and nonlocality, experiments with single atoms and photons, the “quantum bomb factory” and other paradoxes, the measurement problem, so-called “no-hidden-variables theorems,” decoherence theory, the deBroglie/Bohm pilot wave theory, the Everett (“many worlds”) interpretation, and dynamical collapse theories.

John Roberts’s webpage

Jonathan Engel’s webpage