College of Arts and Sciences | Quantum Mysteries for Everyone
C105 | 29401 | Hagar, A.
COLL-C 105 29401 Quantum Mysteries for Everyone (Hagar, A.: History
and Philosophy of Science) (N & M) (3 cr.)
This course explores one of the most fundamental questions in the
foundations of modern physics, namely, can quantum theory, our best
theory for the constitution of matter, be considered a complete
description of Nature. We shall approach this question by focusing on
(1) the compatibility of quantum theory with the modern view of
space-time, and on (2) its universality.
Both aspects will be addressed from four different perspectives: the
formalist, the rationalist, the empiricist, and the instrumentalist.
After equipping ourselves with sufficient tools that enable us to
formalize questions (1) and (2) more precisely, we consider different
metaphysical perspectives about the world and compare the major
lessons of quantum theory with their tenets. We then inquire about the
actual testability of the different possible answers to the
aforementioned questions, and gain understanding of the demarcation
between science and pseudo-science, and of the scope of science and
its limits. Finally, we adopt a pragmatic perspective. Instead of
asking whether quantum theory is complete, we ask ourselves what is
the world like if the theory were true. We will find that in such a
world where quantum theory is complete there are physical restrictions
on information transfer, but also certain enhancements that might
allow more efficient computations and solutions to problems that are
traditionally regarded as intractable. This last module will also
serve as a basic introduction to the fascinating new science of
No background in math or physics is required; you will be surprised
how much grip you can have on these questions with so little
mathematical formalism. Requirements include short written assignments
(1-2 pages long), 3 short quizzes, presentation of a final group
project in class, and a final multiple choice exam.