Theories of the Universe

Quantum Potential

Universal Constants

After his work at Berkeley, Bohm went on to do research at Princeton University. There he used the knowledge he had gained with plasmas to study electrons in metals. As before, he discovered that electrons organized themselves into collective movements called plasmons. The significant difference between these discoveries and the Aspect experiment was that instead of just two particles knowing what the other was doing, now it seemed as though untold trillions of particles knew what all of the others were doing. It was this work that established his high regard as a physicist.

We'll come back to nonlocality in a little while. You'll see that it plays an important part in David Bohm's holographic universe theory. So let's get back to the insights that took him into the world of the hologram and the ideas that were born of that meeting. Before receiving his doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley in 1943, he worked at the Lawrence Berkeley Radiation Laboratory. It was here that he was to do his most important work on plasmas. Plasma, as you know, is a fourth state of matter and is a type of gas containing a high density of electrons and positive ions. While studying plasma, Bohm came upon a remarkable discovery. The electrons that were in plasma stopped behaving like individual entities and began behaving as though they were part of a larger connected whole. The effects they produced reflected an ability to organize themselves into what seemed like organic units that could regenerate and enclose impurities in a wall in the same way a biological organism, like an amoeba, encases a foreign substance in a cyst. He called these collective movements of electrons plasmons.

The discovery of this interconnectedness led him to question the explanation that Bohr had given about the electron's existence being dependent on it being observed. He agreed with Bohr that there was an indivisible system at work, but he refused to dismiss the interconnectedness that Bohr didn't seem to care about. He was also looking for an explanation that could account for the instantaneous communication that was being denied, but which was still an implication that needed to be addressed. Bohr and his followers claimed that quantum mechanics was complete and that it wasn't possible to arrive at a deeper understanding of what was going on at the quantum level. Bohm, of course, was strongly influenced by Einstein whom he would often spend hours with (they were both at Princeton at this time) discussing the questions that quantum mechanics didn't address.

Bohm believed that there was a deeper reality beneath the quantum level, a subquantum field he called the quantum potential. Based on his work with plasmas and the electrons in metals, he believed that electrons do exist in the absence of observers, the opposite of Bohr's view. And by proposing the existence of this quantum potential, he was able to explain the workings of quantum physics as well as Bohr could and also address the questions that Bohr and his followers dismissed.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Theories of the Universe © 2001 by Gary F. Moring. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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