Happy birthday, Werner Heisenberg!
From the New York Times, September 2, 1927:
"Of thirty addresses delivered today before the various sections of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, one of the most important was that of a young German, Dr. W. Heisenberg. Fully 200 mathematical physicists listened to his brief exposition of a conception which will make it necessary to modify belief in what we are pleased to call “common sense” and “reality.”
The layman without knowledge of higher mathematics, listening to Dr. Heisenberg and those who discussed his conclusions, would have decided that this particular section of the British Association is composed of quiet and polite but determined lunatics, who have created a wholly illusory mathematical world of their own.
To explain the quantum theory and its modification by Dr. Heisenberg and others is even more difficult than explaining relativity. It is much like trying to tell an Eskimo what the French language is like without talking French. In other words, the theory cannot be expressed pictorially and mere words mean nothing. One is dealing with something that can be expressed only mathematically.
The consequences, however, are startling. Electrons and atoms cease to have any reality as things that can be detected by the senses directly or indirectly. Yet we are convinced the world is composed of them.
In the new mathematical universe events are more important than substances, and energy more important than matter. All mental pictures we have formed of bodies moving through space are thrown into confusion. So simple a conception as a baseball flying from the pitcher to the batter turns out to be obscure, doubtful and even ridiculous.
Planck, the originator of the quantum theory, Heisenberg, Schrödinger, and De Broglie have shown that the whole science of mechanics must be rewritten. And when it is rewritten, no one but a mathematician will be able to understand it. The scientific world is faced with an upheaval as great as that brought about by Einstein.”