John S. Bell openly questioned the dominance of an orthodox quantum interpretation that had seemingly raised the principle of indeterminism from an epistemological question to an ontological truth in the late 1920s. He understood the inevitability of indeterminism to be a theoretical choice made by the founding architects of quantum theory, not a fundamental principle of reality necessitated by experimental facts. As a result, Bell decried the general lull in quantum interpretation debates within the physics community, and in particular, the complete omission of Louis de Broglie’s deterministic pilot wave interpretation from all theoretical and pedagogical discourses. This paper reexamines the pilot wave’s rise, abandonment, and subsequent omission in the history of quantum theory. What emerges is not a straightforward story of victimization and hegemonic marginalization. Instead, it is a story that grapples with tensions between the polyphony of individual voices and a physics community’s evolving identity and consensus in response to particular sociopolitical and scientific contexts. At the heart of these tensions sits an international scientific community transitioning from a politically fractured and intellectually divergent community to one embracing a somewhat forced pragmatic convergence around rationally reconstructed narratives and concepts like the impossibility of determinism. The story of the pilot wave’s omission gives us a window into the inherent power that theoretical choice and a congealing rhetoric of orthodoxy have on a scientific community’s consensus, pedagogical canons, and the future development of science itself.
Quantum Narratives and the Power of Rhetorical Omission: An Early History of the Pilot Wave Interpretation of Quantum Theory
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José G. Perillán; Quantum Narratives and the Power of Rhetorical Omission: An Early History of the Pilot Wave Interpretation of Quantum Theory. Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 1 February 2018; 48 (1): 24–55. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/hsns.2018.48.1.24
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