More on Ulrich Mohrhoff

Further to an earlier post here is a bit more about Ulrich Mohrhoff. For anyone interested in how mysticism can be connected up with physics in a practical way, to the benefit of physics, and without any beating around the bush, his recent book will be a godsend.

Mohrhoff is a teacher of contemporary physics at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education (SAICE) in Pudacherry (formerly Pondicherry) in India. His book is titled, The World According to Quantum Mechanics – Why the Laws of Physics Make Perfect Sense After All.

The mathematics of quantum mechanics is well beyond the comprehension of almost everyone and for the most part it goes straight over my head. His text book, which is a thorough introduction to this mathematics complete with challenging student exercises, is therefore unlikely to become a popular best-seller. It is also expensive, having the worst word-to-price ratio of any book I’ve ever bought. However, I’m glad I bought it. The real heart of the book is the interpretation he places on the mathematics, and this is explained economically and in plain English.

Quantum theory is astonishingly successful despite the utter lunacy of its mathematics, but it rules out any hope of our ever being able to conceive of what it describes by the use of everyday ‘classical’ concepts. We don’t have any other kind of concepts, so we cannot conceive of what it describes. Whatever it describes would have to be vastly more weird and wonderful than anything we observe in our everyday world. So what are we to do? Must we accept that the way have to describe Nature must always remain incomprehensible to us?

While explaining why interpretations of quantum mechanics that try to accommodate classical intuitions are impossible, rendering futile any hope of creating a picture in our heads of what lies behind the mathematics, Mohrhoff quotes Dennis Diecks, Professor of the Foundations and Philosophy of the Natural Sciences at Utrecht University.

However, this is a negative result that only provides a starting-point for what really has to be done: something conceptually new has to be found, different from what we are familiar with. It is clear that this constructive task is a particularly difficult one, in which huge barriers (partly of a psychological nature) have to be overcome.

Mohrhoff continues, ‘Something conceptually new has been found, and it is presented in this book.’ What is presented is a big idea. ‘What quantum mechanics is trying to tell us’, says Mohrhoff, ‘is that reality is structured from the top down.’ As something to think about this is probably worth the price of the book. I feel that there is the possibility that this is an extreme view and that there are two ways of looking at its structure, as would seem more typical for the world-view of the Upanishads, but it hardly matters.

What matters is that we can see from The World According to Quantum Mechanics that the ancient psychological, metaphysical and cosmological doctrine endorsed by Sri Aurobindo and his group would dove-tail perfectly with the Standard model and allow physics to be reconciled with metaphysics and mysticism.

The book is a vindication of Erwin Schrodinger, who concluded early on that the new physics he was helping to invent implied the truth of the advaita doctrine. With its publication it may not be unreasonable to think that for physics a paradigm shift is approaching of even greater magnitude than quantum mechanics.

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