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Bohr, Niels - When it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry



Type of Spiritual Experience


There appears to be the general belief amogst physicists today that when Niels Bohr proposed the structure of the atom he was proposing a 'physical model'.  This is not in fact the case.

It was a model.

The first quote comes from his first meeting with Werner Heisenberg in early summer 1920, in response to questions on the nature of language, as reported in Discussions about Language (1933); quoted in Defense Implications of International Indeterminacy (1972) by Robert J. Pranger, p. 11, and Theorizing Modernism : Essays in Critical Theory (1993) by Steve Giles, p. 28


A description of the experience

We must be clear that when it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. The poet, too, is not nearly so concerned with describing facts as with creating images and establishing mental connections..........

Atomic Physics and the Description of Nature" (1934)
Isolated material particles are abstractions, their properties being definable and observable only through their interaction with other systems

The source of the experience

Bohr, Niels

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