Review of: J. Bricmont, Making Sense of Quantum Mechanics, Springer, 2016.
The book initially examines superposition and interference. This is illustrated via the use of spin and the Mach-Zender interferometer. The Schrödinger equation and the measurement postulate are discussed. In Chapter 3 a number of philosophical issues are examined including realism and determinism. Chapter 4 is devoted to non-locality, the EPR argument and Bell’s theorem. Chapter 5 explains and illustrates Bohm’s theory. Alternative interpretations such as the Many-Worlds interpretation are examined in Chapter 6. Later in the book various issues regarding the history of quantum mechanics are considered such as the Einstein-Bohr debates as well as a further discussion regarding quantum mechanics and culture.
This book is well written and does explain the issues of superposition, interference, wave-particle duality, and non-locality fairly well. A number of mathematical details are relegated to the appendices, such as the discussions and proofs of no-hidden variables, allowing the book to be accessible to both a general audience as well as those trained in physics that would desire to read the appendices.
The author appears to believe that the quantum measurement problem is the same as the philosophers’ measurement problem, as we’ve defined it in our book. That is, an interpretation of the two postulates of quantum mechanics is all that is needed to explain the results of the current theory. Once that is done, yippee ki-yay, the measurement problem is solved. This fallacy, which appears pervasively in numerous books and journal articles, is the main reason that we have written our book. In fact, a significant problem still remains, amenable to both theoretical and experimental investigation, which we call the physical measurement problem. The physical measurement problem is not trivially resolved via assumption that a measurement has already occurred; rather we demand that a solution to the measurement problem provide the conditions under which a measurement occurs and the theoretical basis for such conditions. Bricmont on the other hand, believes that everything falls into place with the de Broglie–Bohm theory:
As we explained in Chap. 5, in the de Broglie–Bohm theory, everything falls into place;.
While it is true that the de Broglie-Bohm theory does resolve the philosophers’ measurement problem, it hardly can be said to have resolved the physical measurement problem, as we have defined it. If a photon in a superposition were to interact with sets of particles that includes a bonafide detector, then the predictions of Bohm’s theory would be wrong, as explained in our book with the use of a unitary versus measurement discrimination test (UMDT), unless it was known a priori that the given set of particles constitute a bonafide detector. But we do not know currently what physically constitutes a bonafide detector, and this is what is related to our definition of the physical quantum measurement problem. Because of this misconception, Bricmont seems confident in criticizing Bohr and others:
And that is what is specific about quantum mechanics: it is not just that the science has been abused by ignoramuses, but that the scientists themselves, at least a good fraction of them, have contributed to that “abuse”. And they have done it in many ways: by claiming that one has put back an unspecified observer at the center of science (and, then, who could be blamed for identifying this observer with the human subject?); or by claiming that intelligibility is unattainable in the microscopic realm, and that this is so ad vitam eternam. (Kindle Location 8718).
If de Broglie-Bohm resolves the measurement problem, then Bricmont might be justified in this criticism. But it doesn’t resolve the physical measurement problem, and other than the use of pejoratives, which seems a common thread of those with a shallow understanding of the measurement problem, there is no scientific evidence that consciousness and/or free-will are not related to measurement. Ad vitam eternam, Vivat rex.
If you strongly feel that the measurement problem is only an interpretational issue, read Bricmont’s book and learn Bohm’s theory. If you are interested in seriously understanding the measurement problem and working towards its resolution, read our book, The Quantum Measurement Problem.