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The certainty of quantum mechanics: correct predictions


Problems compiling the key papers on quantum theory
John Wheeler Scientist
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And that concept grew out of a student seminar you had in Texas. I think it did. I can't recall all the details of it. But I do know that an active participant in that seminar was Wojciech Zurek. And he and I later put together some of the key papers in the quantum theory, measurements, in order to make it available to the wider community. And that continues to be popular. It was more difficult getting permissions from authors and publishers for the re-printing of those articles than it would have been to write a book ourselves. But the variety of opinions would not have been matched. The biggest difficulty, maybe I mentioned, was with a French publisher. His publishing house was more interested in its arts books that its science books. And the fact that this was done by two people, both dead, gave them no voice in what would happen to their paper. I'm sure they would have liked to have seen it appear in English translation. I had known both of them before they died. I had very high regard for them. But why wouldn't he give permission? I got a French colleague to go and talk to him, and -- Cecile Morette -- she received the answer from him "Yes, I'm sorry to deny you permission. I've denied many people permission, but you're the first one I've been uneasy about denying permission to." "Well, why do you deny permission?" "Because I'm a son of a bitch." It turned out he was an illegitimate child, and he was taking it out on the world, what the world had taken out on him.

John Wheeler, one of the world's most influential physicists, is best known for coining the term 'black holes', for his seminal contributions to the theories of quantum gravity and nuclear fission, as well as for his mind-stretching theories and writings on time, space and gravity.

Listeners: Ken Ford

Ken Ford took his Ph.D. at Princeton in 1953 and worked with Wheeler on a number of research projects, including research for the Hydrogen bomb. He was Professor of Physics at the University of California and Director of the American Institute of Physicists. He collaborated with John Wheeler in the writing of Wheeler's autobiography, 'Geons, Black Holes and Quantum Foam: A Life in Physics' (1998).

Duration: 2 minutes, 50 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008