Showing posts from November, 2022

Book Review: Helgoland by Carlo Rovelli

  Helgoland is windswept and relatively barren island where Werner Heisenberg repaired to contemplate the puzzles of quantum phenomena, and, ultimately, to invent quantum mechanics.  At this point quantum theory was already a quarter of a century old, invented by Max Planck in 1900 and further developed by Einstein, Bohr, and others but only very special and simple cases could be solved. A method of general application did not exist.  After weeks of intense mental struggle he found an answer in the behavior of tables of numbers, tables that would become the matrices of matrix mechanics. Carlo Rovelli, himself an important physicist, tells that story in the first chapter of his book Helgoland, as well as the struggles of Heisenberg and others to understand what he had found.   In quick succession the English Physicist Paul Dirac and the Austrian Erwin Schrodinger found apparently quite different but completely equivalent formulations of quantum mechanics.   All formulations turn out t