Quantum mechanics is one of the most fascinating and mysterious scientific theories of all time. It is the science behind nuclear energy, smart phones, and particle collisions, yet almost a century after its discovery, there is still controversy over what the theory actually means. The problem is that its key element, the quantum-mechanical wave function describing atoms and subatomic particles, isn’t observable. As physics is an experimental science, physicists continue to debate whether the wave function can be taken as real or whether it is simply a tool to make predictions about what can be measured.
The view of the antirealists, championed by Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, and an overwhelming majority of physicists, has become the orthodox mainstream interpretation. For Bohr especially, reality was like a movie shown without a film or projector creating it: “There is no quantum world,” Bohr reportedly affirmed, suggesting an imaginary border between the realms of microscopic, “unreal” quantum physics and “real,” macroscopic objects—a boundary that has received serious blows by experiments ever since. Albert Einstein was a fierce critic of this airy philosophy, although he didn’t come up with an alternative theory himself.
For many years only a small number of outcasts, including Erwin Schrödinger and Hugh Everett populated the camp of the realists. This renegade view, however, is getting increasingly popular—and of course triggers the question of what this quantum reality really is. This is a question that has occupied me for many years, until I arrived at the conclusion that quantum reality, deep down at the most fundamental level, is an all-encompassing, unified whole: “The One.”
If you’re interested in learning more about the history and controversy surrounding quantum mechanics and its implications for our understanding of reality, I recommend checking out these 12 books. From Manjit Kumar’s Quantum: Einstein, Bohr and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality to Jim Baggott’s Quantum Reality: The Quest for the Real Meaning of Quantum Mechanics- A Game of Theories and George Musser’s Spooky Action at a Distance: The Phenomenon That Reimagines Space and Time – and What It Means for Black Holes, the Big Bang, and Theories of Everything to Heinrich Päs’s The One: How an Ancient Idea Holds the Future of Physics, these books offer a comprehensive overview of the various interpretations of quantum mechanics and their implications for our understanding of reality.