Adam Becker: Why the Copenhagen Interpretation Doesn’t Work and Why It’s Popular Anyhow

Adam Becker (University of California, Berkeley).
5-7pm Tuesday April 3, NYU Philosophy department, room 101 (5 Washington Place, New York, NY).


Title: Why the Copenhagen Interpretation Doesn’t Work and Why It’s Popular Anyhow.

Abstract: conventional wisdom holds that since the advent of the first full theories of quantum mechanics in the mid-1920s, the Copenhagen interpretation has been the default interpretation of quantum mechanics, and has enjoyed the support of a majority of physicists ever since. This is not the case. While it is indeed true that a majority of physicists have long professed that they subscribe to the Copenhagen interpretation, the plain fact of the matter is that there is no single coherent position known as the Copenhagen interpretation, nor has there ever been one. Moreover, none of the positions that go by the name “Copenhagen interpretation” do a good job of solving the measurement problem, the central interpretive problem at the heart of quantum foundations. Nor do they evade the nonlocality that is dictated by Bell’s theorem. In this talk, I will give an overview of the history of the Copenhagen interpretation from 1926 to the present, explain its multiple inconsistencies and failures, and attempt an answer at a persistent puzzle: why does the Copenhagen interpretation remain popular among physicists despite its manifest flaws and the existence of multiple superior alternatives?

About the speaker: Adam Becker is the author of What is Real? The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics. He has a PhD in physics from the University of Michigan and he is the recipient of an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Book Grant. He is currently a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley’s Office for History of Science and Technology.

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