/Prephase/ Copenhagen, Niels Bohr, Father of Quantum Theory

Jan 6th, 2016

It was in November on a train from Helsingor to Copenhagen that a friend told me I should definitely visit Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen upon knowing that I will stay in CERN for 1 month. Though I have studied his theories of complementarity in high school, it never occurred to me that he is a Danish and works in Copenhagen.  So it became a great preliminary thing to do as Copenhagen is my stop before Geneva.


Neils Bohr Institute

The librarian Ms Pors showed me around of how the building is, and how the interactions of the scientists (which were the names occupied my whole physics textbook when I was 16) were like. There was Einstein, Kramer, Heisenberg, Pauli, etc.



The best part of it was seeing Bohr chose the Yin-Yang sign as his code of arms — as the interpretation of wave-particle duality. It was also a pleasant surprise that he not only does physics, a huge part of Bohr’s writing were philosophy, and sometimes about Biology. The almighty librarian Ms. Pors said however, Bohr never directly mention the influence of eastern philosophy on his research. 😉


Another interesting thing is what Abraham Pais mentioned the discussion where Bohr had this moment of realising it should be “uniformity” instead of “harmony”. (See book  Niels Bohr’s Times In Physics, Philosophy and Polity).



My biggest impression at the Bohr Institute was how he advocate for the open science – that the world must all aware of where we are at for our technology and scientific research, and that it should not be influence by political powers to conceal research results. In a way, this believe also contributes to the creation of CERN.


And the original drawings Ms. Pors have accidentally step upon when showing me the drawing room. The early designs of cloud chambers and magnets.


Technical Drawings from Neils Bohr Institute

There was also his discussion of the uncertainty of time with Einstein. (See Bohr-Einstein Debate)


Einstein's Box at Neils Bohr Institute


This visit left a lot of fruitful thoughts that would need to explore later this month. How do physicists debate, approach the reality, and how do they construct?


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