Imaginary numbers could be needed to describe reality, new studies find

Ben Turner

Ben Turner

Quote:In fact, even the founders of quantum mechanics themselves thought that the implications of having complex numbers in their equations was disquieting. In a letter to his friend Hendrik Lorentz, physicist Erwin Schrödinger — the first person to introduce complex numbers into quantum theory, with his quantum wave function (ψ) — wrote, "What is unpleasant here, and indeed directly to be objected to, is the use of complex numbers. Ψ is surely fundamentally a real function."

Quote:"The early founders of quantum mechanics could not find any way to interpret the complex numbers appearing in the theory," lead author Marc-Olivier Renou, a theoretical physicist at the Institute of Photonic Sciences in Spain, told Live Science in an email. "Having them [complex numbers] worked very well, but there is no clear way to identify the complex numbers with an element of reality."

To test whether complex numbers were truly vital, the authors of the first study devised a twist on a classic quantum experiment known as the Bell test. The test was first proposed by physicist John Bell in 1964 as a way to prove that quantum entanglement — the weird connection between two far-apart particles that Albert Einstein objected to as "spooky action at a distance" — was required by quantum theory...

'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell

- Bertrand Russell