History of Bohmian Mechanics

Bohmian mechanics originated with Louis de Broglie and had its first public airing and disparaging at the famous quantum mechanics conference in the 1920s. The papers and a discussion about the conference appear in a recent book.

The theory was not well-received de Broglie moved on. The theory is considered a hidden variables theory and von Neumann reported that he proved it was impossible to have such a theory and have the quantum mechanical predictions hold true. He was mistaken.

David Bohm wrote a quantum mechanics book and also gave a proof that hidden variables theory were impossible. Einstein pointed out a flaw in the argument. Bohm responded with Bohmian mechanics, a hidden variables theory that agrees perfectly with quantum mechanical predictions. His theory was not well-received. David Bohm moved on.

John Stuart Bell, of Bell’s theorem, found Bohm’s paper and was delighted. He understood it worked, but that it did come with the price of it being nonlocal. So he asked if one could do better. In a move that showed he should have been a mathematician, he proved that it was impossible to have a local hidden variables theory. Earlier Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen had shown that quantum theory had to be nonlocal if experiments had results and there were no hidden variables.

Together, the two arguments give us the fundamental conundrum of quantum theory: it is a nonlocal theory which is to be made compatible with relativity, a theory in which nonlocality barely makes any sense at all. In any event, Bell promoted this de Broglie-Bohm pilot wave theory despite being cited by many as having proven the impossibility of Bohmian mechanics.

At some point, Sheldon Goldstein came across Nelson’s stochastic mechanics, a theory of random noise that gives the quantum mechanical predictions. Noting that the randomness could be done away with, he came up with Bohmian mechanics. Researching it, he found out the history of the theory. It was he and his people that cite the theory as Bohmian mechanics. It is a catchy name.

Status: Draft form. Need citations and precise details.