History and Philosophy Of Science | Quantum Mysterie for Everyone
C105 | 29401 | Amit Hagar


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
spacetime, 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 will enable us to formalize
questions (1) and (2) more precisely, we shall consider different
metaphysical perspectives about the world and compare the major
lessons of quantum theory with their tenets. We will 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 will adopt a pragmatic
perspective. Instead of asking whether quantum theory is complete,
we will 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 quantum information.
No background in math or physics is required here; you will be
surprised how much grip you can have on these questions with so
little mathematical formalism. Along the course you will be required
to write short assignments (1-2 pages long), answer 3 short quizzes,
present a final group project in class, and take a final multiple
choice exam.