Quantum Theory as Physics’ “most successful”

Letter for publication in New Scientist – re. Editorial                                       – ‘don’t fear the f-word’,   Max Wallis, 22 January

challenging a myth that Quantum Theory is “most successful”

To call quantum theory our “most successful model of the universe” is surely over-egging the case (Editorial, 22 January, p.5). Many would prefer Einstein’s critique of QT as an “incomplete” description of reality, even though he could offer no alternative.

You have reported experimental challenges, eg. Afshar’s version of Young’s famous two-slit experiment (New Sci. 17 Feb. 2007). Afshar inserted fine wires in the pathways from the two slits at positions where dark fringes are seen on a screen, while using photon detectors to verify the ‘particle’ nature. It tested the tenet of QT that light could not be both particles and waves (complementarity principle), and found it to be untrue.

Consider the non-linear optics using crystals that convert incident laser light to a rainbow of emitted light. The frequencies and emission angles satisfy phase matching relations , which derive from Maxwell’s equations in the continuous medium. QT has just a phenomenological description with photon momenta satisfying the same relations, but gives no explanation for the supposed ‘splitting’ of photons.

QT devotees have argued this away, as they do not claim a theory of light through media differing in refractive index. But what of the experimental finding that the pulse given to atoms by a narrow laser beam of resonant light is less than the momentum of a single ‘photon’? The atoms react to the electric fields of the finite width beam, not to individual photons (Wicht et al 2005). A clear win for Maxwell’s field equations over QT. Each of the QT versions that Michael Brooks describes (Where the weird things are, 22 Jan 2011, p.30) should face these challenges. But can’t we already conclude that in regard to non-linear optics, QT comes off second best?

New Scientist declined to publish this challenge to their myth!

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