Frases Werner Heisenberg

„The words "position" and "velocity" of an electron… seemed perfectly well defined… and in fact they were clearly defined concepts within the mathematical framework of Newtonian mechanics. But actually they were not well defined, as seen from the relations of uncertainty.“

—  Werner Heisenberg
Physics and Philosophy (1958), Context: The words "position" and "velocity" of an electron... seemed perfectly well defined... and in fact they were clearly defined concepts within the mathematical framework of Newtonian mechanics. But actually they were not well defined, as seen from the relations of uncertainty. One may say that regarding their position in Newtonian mechanics they were well defined, but in their relation to nature, they were not. This shows that we can never know beforehand which limitations will be put on the applicability of certain concepts by the extension of our knowledge into the remote parts of nature, into which we can only penetrate with the most elaborate tools. Therefore, in the process of penetration we are bound sometimes to use our concepts in a way which is not justified and which carries no meaning. Insistence on the postulate of complete logical clarification would make science impossible. We are reminded... of the old wisdom that one who insists on never uttering an error must remain silent.

„The equation of motion holds at all times, it is in this sense eternal“

—  Werner Heisenberg
Physics and Philosophy (1958), Context: The equation of motion holds at all times, it is in this sense eternal, whereas the geometrical forms, like the orbits, are changing. Therefore, the mathematical forms that represent the elementary particles will be solutions of some eternal law of motion for matter. Actually this is a problem which has not yet been solved.<!-- p. 72

„The elementary particles are certainly not eternal and indestructible units of matter, they can actually be transformed into each other.“

—  Werner Heisenberg
Physics and Philosophy (1958), Context: In the philosophy of Democritus the atoms are eternal and indestructible units of matter, they can never be transformed into each other. With regard to this question modern physics takes a definite stand against the materialism of Democritus and for Plato and the Pythagoreans. The elementary particles are certainly not eternal and indestructible units of matter, they can actually be transformed into each other. As a matter of fact, if two such particles, moving through space with a very high kinetic energy, collide, then many new elementary particles may be created from the available energy and the old particles may have disappeared in the collision. Such events have been frequently observed and offer the best proof that all particles are made of the same substance: energy. <!-- p. 71

„The law of causality is no longer applied in quantum theory and the law of conservation of matter is no longer true for the elementary particles.“

—  Werner Heisenberg
Physics and Philosophy (1958), Context: The law of causality is no longer applied in quantum theory and the law of conservation of matter is no longer true for the elementary particles. Obviously Kant could not have foreseen the new discoveries, but since he was convinced that his concepts would be "the basis of any future metaphysics that can be called science" it is interesting to see where his arguments have been wrong.

„Can nature possibly be so absurd as it seemed to us in these atomic experiments?“

—  Werner Heisenberg
Physics and Philosophy (1958), Context: I remember discussions with Bohr which went through many hours till very late at night and ended almost in despair; and when at the end of the discussion I went alone for a walk in the neighbouring park I repeated to myself again and again the question: Can nature possibly be so absurd as it seemed to us in these atomic experiments?

„Even for the physicist the description in plain language will be the criterion of the degree of understanding that has been reached.“

—  Werner Heisenberg
Physics and Philosophy (1958), Context: The physicist may be satisfied when he has the mathematical scheme and knows how to use for the interpretation of the experiments. But he has to speak about his results also to non-physicists who will not be satisfied unless some explanation is given in plain language. Even for the physicist the description in plain language will be the criterion of the degree of understanding that has been reached.

„The Greek philosophers thought of static forms“

—  Werner Heisenberg
Physics and Philosophy (1958), Context: The Greek philosophers thought of static forms and found them in the regular solids. Modern science, however, has from its beginning in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries started from the dynamic problem. The constant element in physics since Newton is not a configuration or a geometrical form, but a dynamic law.<!-- p. 72

„The existing scientific concepts cover always only a very limited part of reality, and the other part that has not yet been understood is infinite.“

—  Werner Heisenberg
Physics and Philosophy (1958), Context: The existing scientific concepts cover always only a very limited part of reality, and the other part that has not yet been understood is infinite.<!-- p. 201

„If nature leads us to mathematical forms of great simplicity and beauty“

—  Werner Heisenberg
Context: If nature leads us to mathematical forms of great simplicity and beauty—by forms I am referring to coherent systems of hypothesis, axioms, etc.—to forms that no one has previously encountered, we cannot help thinking that they are "true," that they reveal a genuine feature of nature... You must have felt this too: The almost frightening simplicity and wholeness of relationships which nature suddenly spreads out before us and for which none of us was in the least prepared. Conversation with Einstein, as quoted in Bittersweet Destiny: The Stormy Evolution of Human Behavior by Del Thiessen

„In modern quantum theory there can be no doubt that the elementary particles will finally also be mathematical forms“

—  Werner Heisenberg
Physics and Philosophy (1958), Context: But the resemblance of the modern views to those of Plato and the Pythagoreans can be carried somewhat further. The elementary particles in Plato's Timaeus are finally not substance but mathematical forms. "All things are numbers" is a sentence attributed to Pythagoras. The only mathematical forms available at that time were such geometric forms as the regular solids or the triangles which form their surface. In modern quantum theory there can be no doubt that the elementary particles will finally also be mathematical forms but of a much more complicated nature.

„The interest of research workers has frequently been focused on the phenomenon of regularly shaped crystals suddenly forming from a liquid“

—  Werner Heisenberg
The Development of Quantum Mechanics (1933), Context: The interest of research workers has frequently been focused on the phenomenon of regularly shaped crystals suddenly forming from a liquid, e. g. a supersaturated salt solution. According to the atomic theory the forming force in this process is to a certain extent the symmetry characteristic of the solution to Schrödinger's wave equation, and to that extent crystallization is explained by the atomic theory. Nevertheless this process retains a statistical and — one might almost say — historical element which cannot be further reduced: even when the state of the liquid is completely known before crystallization, the shape of the crystal is not determined by the laws of quantum mechanics. The formation of regular shapes is just far more probable than that of a shapeless lump. But the ultimate shape owes its genesis partly to an element of chance which in principle cannot be analysed further.

„Some subjects are so serious that one can only joke about them.“

—  Werner Heisenberg
Misattributed, Sometimes attributed to Heisenberg, this was actually a statement made by Niels Bohr, as quoted in The Genius of Science: A Portrait Gallery (2000) by Abraham Pais, p. 24 Some things are so serious that one can only joke about them. Variant without any citation as to author in Denial is not a river in Egypt (1998) by Sandi Bachom, p. 85

„An expert is someone who knows some of the worst mistakes that can be made in his subject, and how to avoid them.“

—  Werner Heisenberg, libro The Part and The Whole
Ein Fachmann ist ein Mann, der einige der gröbsten Fehler kennt, die man in dem betreffenden Fach machen kann, und der sie deshalb zu vermeiden versteht. Der Teil und das Ganze. Gespräche im Umkreis der Atomphysik (1969); also in "Kein Chaos, aus dem nicht wieder Ordnung würde", Die Zeit No. 34 (22 August 1969); as translated in Physics and Beyond : Encounters and Conversation (1971)

„Quantum theory provides us with a striking illustration of the fact that we can fully understand a connection though we can only speak of it in images and parables.“

—  Werner Heisenberg, libro The Part and The Whole
Die Quantentheorie ist so ein wunderbares Beispiel dafür, daß man einen Sachverhalt in völliger Klarheit verstanden haben kann und gleichzeitig doch weiß, daß man nur in Bildern und Gleichnissen von ihm reden kann. Der Teil und das Ganze. Gespräche im Umkreis der Atomphysik (1969); also in "Kein Chaos, aus dem nicht wieder Ordnung würde", Die Zeit No. 34 (22 August 1969) http://www.zeit.de/1969/34/kein-chaos-aus-dem-nicht-wieder-ordnung-wuerde/komplettansicht; as translated in Physics and Beyond : Encounters and Conversation (1971)

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