What is Niels Bohr's Interpretation?

May 10, 2002
Sponsored by the Bhaktivedanta Institute*

Speaker: Ravi V. Gomatam, Director, Bhaktivedanta Institute   

Comments by:
Prof. Edward Mackinnon, (Retd.) Prof. of Philosophy, Cal State, Hayward and a well-known Bohr scholar. 

A central tenet, common to the (various strands of the) so-called Copenhagen interpretation, that the Y function provides a description of the state of the individual system is incompatible, with Bohr's own interpretation. Bohr instead mooted an idea, call it the inseparability hypothesis, according to which the Y function represents the state of the individual quantum system and the totality of the experimental arrangement conceived as a single epistemic whole. The Y function is not to be interpreted as a 'state' in any physical sense, much less a complete physical state, of the individual system. In this sense, Bohr was much more in agreement with Einstein than is commonly supposed. Bohr differed from Einstein only over whether a conception of the independent state of the individual system can be at all provided by any theory.

We shall trace in detail how, using the idea of inseparability, Bohr strove to avoid all contradictions and paradoxes, and at the same time demonstrate the predictive completeness of QT by attributing to the quantum formalism, a new epistemic mode of description. In so far as inseparability itself is unexplained, Bohr's interpretation remains an unsatisfactory rationalization.

Besides clarifying historically the interpretive content of Bohr's ideas and differentiating it from the so-called Copenhagen interpretation, our reading will point out the use that his ideas may yet have for the ongoing project of developing an ontological interpretation of QT. This talk will be based on a paper to be read later this month at the annual meeting of the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science in Toronto.

Friday, May 10, 2002
Room 300, Health Sciences West, University of California, San Francisco*
7:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m. Social; 8:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m. Lecture and Discussion

Registration: If you are attending for the first time, please pre-register by calling K. P. Rajan, Ph.D. at (510) 841-7618, or Jean Burns, Ph.D., at (510) 481-7507 (e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ).

Directions: The closest parking is the UCSF public garage at 500 Parnassus Avenue ($2.25/hr). You may be able to find some free street parking within a few blocks of the campus. We post directions to reach Health Sciences West building in the lobby of the Medical Sciences building (513 Parnassus), across the street from the UCSF garage.

* The Bhaktivedanta Institute and UCSF are not affiliated. The use of meeting rooms at the University of California, San Francisco, by non-profit organizations does not imply that the University endorses this organization or the material being presented.