Shut Up and Calculate

Our world would be impossible without quantum mechanics — but we still don’t have a narrative of how it works.

Shut Up and Calculate
  • Quantum mechanics allows scientists to make accurate calculations, and the theory serves as the basis of many modern technologies, from lasers to solar panels.
  • However, scientists cannot agree on what the underlying equations actually mean. This is important because quantum mechanics has profound philosophical implications about the nature of reality.
  • Jim Al-Khalili agrees with Einstein that a common approach to quantum physics known as the Copenhagen interpretation (which is, essentially, “Shut up and calculate”) is not enough to gain understanding of the real world.

Einstein is celebrated for giving us the special theory of relativity. The fact that nothing goes faster than light, time is the fourth dimension, but he didn't come up with the equations. That was the interpretation, the narrative of the equations, and it's the same with any other theory in physics. With quantum mechanics, it's different. We have the equations of quantum mechanics, but we can't agree on what that equation means.

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