V Congresso Solvay – La meccanica quantistica

The International Solvay Institutes for Physics and Chemistry, located in Brussels, were founded by the Belgian industrialist Ernest Solvay in 1912, following the historic invitation-only 1911 Conseil Solvay, considered a turning point in world physics. The Institutes coordinate conferences, workshops, seminars, and colloquia. Following the initial success of 1911, the Solvay Conferences (Conseils Solvay) have been devoted to outstanding preeminent open problems in both physics and chemistry. The usual schedule is every three years, but there have been larger gaps. Perhaps the most famous conference was the October 1927 Fifth Solvay International Conference on Electrons and Photons, where the world’s most notable physicists met to discuss the newly formulated quantum theory. The leading figures were Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr. Einstein, disenchanted with Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, remarked “God does not play dice”. Bohr replied, “Einstein, stop telling God what to do”. (See Bohr–Einstein debates.) 17 of the 29 attendees were or became Nobel Prize winners, including Marie Curie, who alone among them, had won Nobel Prizes in two separate scientific disciplines. This conference was also the culmination of the struggle between Einstein and the scientific realists, who wanted strict rules of scientific method as laid out by Charles Peirce and Karl Popper, versus Bohr and the instrumentalists, who wanted looser rules based on outcomes. Starting at this point, the instrumentalists won, instrumentalism having been seen as the norm ever since, although the debate has been actively continued by the likes of Alan Musgrave. A. Piccard, E. Henriot, P. Ehrenfest, E. Herzen, Th. de Donder, E. Schrödinger, J.E. Verschaffelt, W. Pauli, W. Heisenberg, R.H. Fowler, L. Brillouin; P. Debye, M. Knudsen, W.L. Bragg, H.A. Kramers, P.A.M. Dirac, A.H. Compton, L. de Broglie, M. Born, N. Bohr; I. Langmuir, M. Planck, M. Skłodowska-Curie, H.A. Lorentz, A. Einstein, P. Langevin, Ch.-E. Guye, C.T.R. Wilson, O.W. Richardson Fifth conference participants, 1927. Institut International de Physique Solvay in Leopold Park.

The most known people who participated in the conference were Ervin Schrodinger, Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Auguste Piccard, Paul Dirac, Max Born, Wolfgang Pauli, Louis de Broglie, Marie Curie, Hendrik Lorentz, Albert Einstein and others.

The film opens with quick shots of Erwin Schrodinger and Niels Bohr. Auguste Piccard of the University of Brussels follows and then the camera re-focuses on Schrodinger and Bohr.

Schrodinger who developed wave mechanics never agreed with Bohr on quantum mechanics.
Solvay gave Heisenberg an opportunity to discuss his new uncertainty principle theory.
Max Born’s statistical interpretation of the wave function ended determinism in atomic world.
These men – Bohr, Heisenberg, Kramers, Dirac and Born together with Born represent the founding fathers of quantum mechanics.
Louis de Broglie wrote his dissertation on the wave nature of matter which Schrodinger used as basis for wave mechanics.
Albert Einstein whose famous response to Born’s statistical interpretation of wave function was “God does not play dice.”

Twenty-nine physicists, the main quantum theorists of the day, came together to discuss the topic “Electrons and Photons”. Seventeen of the 29 attendees were or became Nobel Prize winners.

Following is a “home movie” shot by Irving Langmuir, (the 1932 Nobel Prize winner in chemistry). It captures 2 minutes of an intermission in the proceedings. Twenty-one of the 29 attendees are on the film.

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