(1917-1992) who came up with a radical alternative interpretation
of quantum mechanics
. One of the fundamentally counter-intuitive
ideas in standard QM
is that quantum
events are ultimately random
. Some physicists, such as Einstein
, unwilling to accept this, hoped that a deeper underlying mechanism
would be found that removed the randomness
: they wanted "hidden variables
". Their hopes were dashed when in 1932 John von Neumann
apparently proved that hidden variables were inconsistent with quantum theory
David Bohm however showed* that von Neumann's proof made a crucial assumption that events interacted locally: that is, causation propagated through spacetime in the way we intuitively imagine it to, one event causing another right next to it. If events at distant locations can be directly linked, a hidden variables theory of quantum mechanics is mathematically possible. He produced a version of the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox, which seems to be an instance of non-local causation.
His 1952 paper containing some of these ideas was "A suggested interpretation of the quantum theory in terms of 'hidden' variables". His principal book is Wholeness and the Implicate Order (1980).
This led to his own theory, which I don't understand, and don't believe in, and which barely rates a mention in most physics books, but which is nevertheless an immensely important contribution, in that it is a genuine and serious attempt at an alternative theory, consistent with all known quantum-mechanical observations. If anyone either understands it or at least knows more about it, there's a big welcoming box for you underneath this write-up. (Later: see quantum non-locality for excellent coverage of the whole debate including Bohm's contribution, and which is more correct than mine here, if they differ.)
Bohm called his vision of the universe the implicate order. It may also be termed quantum implicature, I think, unless I just accidentally made that up. The universe is "folded up" in such a way that every part is intimately and immediately connected with any other. (So he is not merely talking about occasional wormholes in an orthodox Kaluza-Klein higher-dimensional spacetime.) Any particle, such as a single photon going through one of the slits in the two-slit experiment, is accompanied by a pilot wave that in effect washes over the entire universe and interacts with every other pilot wave, to produce the wave interference effects seen in standard physics.
David Deutsch, champion of the rival many-worlds hypothesis, says that the immensely complicated calculations required for the working of this wave, while hidden under the modest name of "wave", are in effect the infinite parallel universes of the many-worlds interpretation, and do not simplify anything: they do not save the idea that there is a single universe.
Although Bohm's was a serious scientific theory, and has been taken seriously by many scientists, though usually rejected by them, it had rather more resonance than it ought to have in non-scientific culture. It seems to support a meaningless New Age idea of holism; and indeed Bohm's own later work, venturing into ecology and world peace, did rather go along with this. He believed mind should be taken into account in a quasi-holographic view of the universe. But in essence his real contribution to physics no more supports Buddhism or New-Age-ism than Einstein or Heisenberg's theories support the amateur relativism sometimes drawn from them.
Born in Pennsylvania, he was blacklisted in the McCarthy witch-hunts and abandoned the United States, teaching in England, Israel, and Brazil.
Some time ago Oolong
pointed out to me that the nature of Bohm's demonstration was rather different. The situation still seems to be uncertain. What Bohm did was construct a hidden-variables method that was consistent and therefore contradicted von Neumann
. It was John Bell
who tried to work out what exactly was wrong with von Neumann's argument, and whether locality
was the key, therein developing Bell's inequality
Greater detail at