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Hacking the quantum revolution: 1925–1975

Abstract

I argue that the quantum revolution should be seen as an Ian Hacking type of scientific revolution: a profound, longue durée, multidisciplinary process of transforming our understanding of physical nature, with deep-rooted social components from the start. The “revolution” exhibits a characteristic style of reasoning – the hierarchization of physical nature — and developed and uses a specific language – quantum field theory (QFT). It is by virtue of that language that the quantum theory has achieved some of its deepest insights into the description of the dynamics of the physical world. However, the meaning of what a quantum field theory is and what it describes has deeply altered, and one now speaks of “effective” quantum field theories. Interpreting all present day quantum field theories as but “effective” field theories sheds additional light on Phillip Anderson’s assertion that “More is different”. This important element is addressed in the last part of the paper.

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Schweber, S.S. Hacking the quantum revolution: 1925–1975. EPJ H 40, 53–149 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1140/epjh/e2014-50060-9

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Keywords

  • Renormalization Group
  • Ising Model
  • Critical Exponent
  • Physical Review
  • Nuclear Force