BOHMIAN CON­VER­SA­TIONS

The New York Review of Books - - The Classifieds -

To the Edi­tors:

In a foot­note to his re­view of Adam Becker’s book What Is Real?: The Un­fin­ished Quest for the Mean­ing of Quan­tum Physics

[NYR, April 19], David Al­bert men­tions that dur­ing the years I worked with David Bohm on my doc­toral dis­ser­ta­tion I “never heard of Bohm’s the­ory un­til long af­ter [my] dis­ser­ta­tion had been com­pleted.” This is a bit mis­lead­ing. I was Bohm’s stu­dent at Birk­beck Col­lege dur­ing the years 1963 to 1965 and had writ­ten a pa­per on Bohm’s “pi­lot wave” the­ory as an un­der­grad­u­ate at the Univer­sity of Cape Town. In fact, the pa­per was the rea­son Bohm agreed to take me on as a grad­u­ate stu­dent. What is true, as far as I re­call, is that, apart from our ini­tial meet­ing, he never talked about the the­ory dur­ing my time at Birk­beck. Al­bert’s re­mark that af­ter fac­ing “a cruel wall of si­lence” Bohm “seems to have de­cided not to men­tion his beautiful the­ory to any­body ever again,” and that it was only “some­time in the 1980s that a small and em­bat­tled com­mu­nity of physi­cists, math­e­ma­ti­cians, and philoso­phers, who had learned of the the­ory from Bell, be­gan to take an ac­tive in­ter­est in what Bohm had done,” is re­vi­sion­ist his­tory. Bohm re­newed work on his the­ory in a se­ries of papers with Basil Hi­ley in the 1980s af­ter Hi­ley showed him a nu­mer­i­cal sim­u­la­tion of Bohmian par­ti­cles pass­ing through a two-slit sys­tem form­ing an in­ter­fer­ence pat­tern (pub­lished as joint work by Christo­pher Philip­pi­des, Christo­pher Dewd­ney, and Hi­ley in the Ital­ian physics jour­nal Il Nuovo Ci­mento in 1979).

Jef­frey Bub Distin­guished Univer­sity Pro­fes­sor Univer­sity of Mary­land Col­lege Park, Mary­land

David Z Al­bert replies:

I am grate­ful to Pro­fes­sor Bub for cor­rect­ing my ac­count of his con­ver­sa­tions with David Bohm—I must have some­how mis­un­der­stood, or mis­re­mem­bered, what he told me about them. And I am sorry if I in­ad­ver­tently pro­duced the im­pres­sion that Bohm’s very real and very pro­found dis­cour­age­ment with the re­cep­tion of his the­ory in the 1950s per­sisted for the rest of his life—Pro­fes­sor Bub is quite right in point­ing out that Bohm even­tu­ally changed his mind and took his the­ory up again in the 1980s. I knew that, of course, and did not mean to sug­gest oth­er­wise.

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