Last modified on 26 January 2014, at 12:42

Wolfgang Pauli

The layman always means, when he says "reality" that he is speaking of something self-evidently known; whereas to me it seems the most important and exceedingly difficult task of our time is to work on the construction of a new idea of reality.

Wolfgang Ernst Pauli (25 April 190015 December 1958) was an Austrian-Swiss physicist, one of the pioneers of quantum physics, and recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1945.

QuotesEdit

Our friend Dirac, too, has a religion, and its guiding principle is "God does not exist and Dirac is His prophet."
I have done a terrible thing, I have postulated a particle that cannot be detected.
When one analyzes the pre-conscious step to concepts, one always finds ideas which consist of "symbolic images."
Although I have no objection to accepting the existence of relatively constant psychic contents that survive personal ego, it must always be born in mind that we have no way of knowing what these contents are actually like "as such."
All we can observe is their effect on other living people, whose spiritual level and whose personal unconscious crucially influence the way these contents actually manifest themselves.
There remains still in the new kind of theory an objective reality, inasmuch as these theories deny any possibility for the observer to influence the result of a measurement, once the experimental arrangement is chosen.
This is to show the world that I can paint like Titian … Only technical details are missing.
How can one look happy when he is thinking about the anomalous Zeeman effect?
The deepest pleasure in science comes from finding an instantiation, a home, for some deeply felt, deeply held image.
  • Es gibt keinen Gott und Dirac ist sein Prophet.
    • There is no God and Dirac is his Prophet.
    • A remark made during the Fifth Solvay International Conference (October 1927), after a discussion of the religious views of various physicists, at which all the participants laughed, including Dirac, as quoted in Teil und das Ganze (1969), by Werner Heisenberg, p. 119; it is an ironic play on the Muslim statement of faith, the Shahada, often translated: "There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is His Prophet."
    • Variant translations and paraphrases:
    • Well, our friend Dirac, too, has a religion, and its guiding principle is "God does not exist and Dirac is His prophet."
      • As quoted in the authorized translation, Physics and Beyond : Encounters and Conversations (1971) by Werner Heisenberg, p. 87
    • Yes, yes, our friend Dirac has a religion, and its creed runs: "There is no God, and Dirac is his prophet."
      • As quoted in Jesus, Son of Man (1977) by Rudolf Augstein, p. 325
    • Our friend Dirac has a religion; and the main tenet of that religion is: There is no God, and Dirac is his prophet.
      • As quoted in Haphazard Reality : Half a Century of Science (1983), by Hendrik Brugt Gerhard Casimir, p. 151
    • Yes, our friend Dirac has a religion, and the basic postulate of this religion is: "There is no God, and Dirac is his prophet."
      • As quoted in Dirac : A Scientific Biography (1990) by Helge Kragh, p. 256
    • Well, well, our friend Dirac has a religion, and its guiding principle is: "There is no God, and Dirac is His prophet.
      • As quoted in God's Laughter : Man and His Cosmos (1992) by Gerhard Staguhn, p. 159
    • If I understand Dirac correctly, his meaning is this: there is no God, and Dirac is his Prophet.
  • I have done a terrible thing, I have postulated a particle that cannot be detected.
    • Statement of 1930, after postulating the existence of the very elusive neutrino; as quoted by Frederick Reines, in his "Foreword" to Spaceship Neutrino (1992) by Christine Sutton, p. xi
  • When that amusing "Pauli effect" of the overturned vase occurred, on the occasion of the founding of the Jung Institute, I had the immediate and vivid impression that I should "pour out water inside" (— to use the symbolic language that I have acquired from you). Then when the connection between psychology and physics took up a relatively large part of your talk, it became even more clear to me what I was to do. The outcome of all this is the enclosed essay.
    • Letter to Carl Jung (16 June 1948), referring to an incident where a vase fell over, apparently spontaneously as he entered a room, and an essay: Moderne Beispiele zur 'Hintergrunds-physik' (Modern Examples of 'Background Physics' ). Jung and Pauli worked together in developing theories of Synchronicity.
  • Later, however, I came to recognize the objective nature of these dreams or fantasies ... Thus it was that I gradually came to acknowledge that such fantasies or dreams are neither meaningless nor purely arbitrary but rather convey a sort of "second meaning" of the terms applied.
    • After having dreams about physical terms, which he initially dismissed as a "misuse of physics terminology" by the unconscious, in a letter to Carl Jung (16 June 1948)
  • The purely psychological interpretation only apprehends half of the matter. The other half is the revealing of the archetypal basis of the terms actually applied in modern physics. What the final method of observation must see in the production of "background physics" through the unconscious of modern man is a directing of objective toward a future description of nature that uniformly comprises physis and psyche, a form of description that at the moment we are experiencing only in a prescientific phase. To achieve such a uniform description of nature, it appears to be essential to have recourse to the archetypal background of the scientific terms and concepts.
  • The layman always means, when he says "reality" that he is speaking of something self-evidently known; whereas to me it seems the most important and exceedingly difficult task of our time is to work on the construction of a new idea of reality.
    • Letter to Markus Fierz (12 August 1948), as quoted in The Innermost Kernel : Depth Psychology and Quantum Physics : Wolfgang Pauli's Dialogue with C. G. Jung (2005) by Suzanne Gieser
  • When one analyzes the pre-conscious step to concepts, one always finds ideas which consist of "symbolic images." The first step to thinking is a painted vision of these inner pictures whose origin cannot be reduced only and firstly to the sensual perception but which are produced by an 'instinct to imagining' and which are re-produced by different individuals independently, i.e. collectively... But the archaic image is also the necessary predisposition and the source of a scientific attitude. To a total recognition belong also those images out of which have grown the rational concepts.
  • What now is the answer to the question as to the bridge between the perception of the senses and the concepts, which is now reduced to the question as to the bridge between the outer perceptions and those inner image-like representations. It seems to me one has to postulate a cosmic order of nature — outside of our arbitrariness— to which the outer material objects are subjected as are the inner images... The organizing and regulating has to be posited beyond the differentiation of physical and psychical... I am all for it to call this "organizing and regulating" "archetypes." It would then be inadmissible to define these as psychic contents. Rather, the above-mentioned inner pictures (dominants of the collective unconscious, see Jung) are the psychic manifestations of the archetypes, but which would have to produce and condition all nature laws belonging to the world of matter. The nature laws of matter would then be the physical manifestation of the archetypes.
  • It seems significant that according to quantum physics the indestructibility of energy on one hand — which expresses its timeless existence — and the appearance of energy in space and time on the other hand correspond to two contradictory (complementary) aspects of reality. In fact, both are always present, but in individual cases the one or the other may be more pronounced.
    • "Modern Examples of Background Physics" ["Moderne Beispiele zur Hintergrundsphysik"] (1948) as translated by David Roscoe in Atom and Archetype (1992) edited by Carl Alfred Meier
  • Although I have no objection to accepting the existence of relatively constant psychic contents that survive personal ego, it must always be born in mind that we have no way of knowing what these contents are actually like "as such." All we can observe is their effect on other living people, whose spiritual level and whose personal unconscious crucially influence the way these contents actually manifest themselves.
    • "Modern Examples of Background Physics" ["Moderne Beispiele zur Hintergrundsphysik"] (1948) as translated by David Roscoe in Atom and Archetype (1992) edited by Carl Alfred Meier
  • Both of us [seem] to agree that the future of Jung's ideas is not with [psycho-] therapy... but with a unitarian, holistic concept of nature and the position of man in it.
  • "The fact of the existence of two theories [causal and acausal] that contradict each other in Jung ... corresponds psychologically to the vascillation between 3 and 4.
  • It is always the older that emanates the new one.
  • In the new pattern of thought we do not assume any longer the detached observer, occurring in the idealizations of this classical type of theory, but an observer who by his indeterminable effects creates a new situation, theoretically described as a new state of the observed system. In this way every observation is a singling out of a particular factual result, here and now, from the theoretical possibilities, therefore making obvious the discontinuous aspect of physical phenomena.
    Nevertheless, there remains still in the new kind of theory an objective reality, inasmuch as these theories deny any possibility for the observer to influence the result of a measurement, once the experimental arrangement is chosen. Therefore particular qualities of an individual observer do not enter into the conceptual framework of the theory.
    • "Matter" in Man's Right to Knowledge, 2nd series (1954), p. 10; also in Writings on Physics and Philosophy‎ (1994) edited by Charles Paul P. Enz and Karl von Meyenn
  • The designation "Jungian Psychology" is actually already unscientific sectarianism. I only acknowledge C. G. Jung's contribution to the general psychology of the unconscious.
    • Letter To Carl Alfred Meier (the president of the C. G. Jung Institute, Zurich) in (1956)
  • This is to show the world that I can paint like Titian. [A big drawing of a rectangle] Only technical details are missing.
    • In a letter to George Gamow, 1958, commenting on Werner Heisenberg's claim to a journalist that Pauli and Heisenberg have found a unified field theory, "but the technical details were missing"; as quoted in Hyperspace : A Scientific Odyssey through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the Tenth Dimension (1995) by Michio Kaku, p. 137
  • The best that most of us can hope to achieve in physics is simply to misunderstand at a deeper level.
    • to Jagdish Mehra, in Berkeley, California (May 1958), as quoted in The Historical Development of Quantum Theory (2000) by Jagdish Mehra
  • This isn't right. This isn't even wrong.
    • Response after reading a colleague's paper, quoted in The Successful Toastmaster: A Treasure Chest of Introductions, Epigrams, Humor, and Quotations (1966) by Herbert Victor Prochnow, p. 350, and in Mathematical Apocrypha Redux : More Stories and Anecdotes of Mathematicians and the Mathematical (2005) by Steven George Krantz, p. 194
    • This paper is so bad it is not even wrong.
      • As quoted in Comic Sections : The Book of Mathematical Jokes, Humour, Wit, and Wisdom (1993) by Des MacHale
    • Das is nicht einmal falsch.
      • It is not even wrong.
        • As quoted in Not Even Wrong : The Failure Of String Theory and the Search for Unity in Physical Law (2006) by Peter Woit (2006), Preface, p. xii
  • I don't mind your thinking slowly; I mind your publishing faster than you think.
    • As quoted in The Harvest of a Quiet Eye : A Selection of Scientific Quotations (1977) by Alan Lindsay Mackay, p. 117
  • When I was young, I thought I was the best formalist of my time. I thought I was a revolutionary. When the big problems would come, I would solve them and write about them. The big problems came and passed by, others solved them and wrote about them. I was a classicist and not a revolutionary.
    • As quoted in Faust in Copenhagen (2007) by Gino Segrè, p. 130.5, which cites The Historical Development of Quantum Theory (1982) by Jagdish Mehra and Helmut Rechenberg, vol 1 of 4, p. xxiv, and Inward Bound (1986) by Abraham Pais, p. 186
  • God made the bulk; surfaces were invented by the devil.
    • As quoted in Growth, Dissolution, and Pattern Formation in Geosystems (1999) by Bjørn Jamtveit and Paul Meakin, p. 291
  • The setup of the book as far as printing and paper are concerned is splendid.
    • Said regarding Elementare Quantenmechanik by Max Born and Pascual Jordan, as quoted in Quantum Dialogue (1999) by Mara Beller, p. 38.
  • A colleague who met me strolling rather aimlessly in the beautiful streets of Copenhagen said to me in a friendly manner, “You look very unhappy”; whereupon I answered fiercely, “How can one look happy when he is thinking about the anomalous Zeeman effect?”.
    • Writings on Physics and Philosophy (1994), p. 15.
  • Modern man, seeking a middle position in the evaluation of sense impression and thought, can, following Plato, interpret the process of understanding nature as a correspondence, that is, a coming into congruence of pre-existing images of the human psyche with external objects and their behaviour. Modern man, of course, unlike Plato, looks on the pre-existent original images also as not invariable, but as relative to the development of a conscious point of view, so that the word "dialectic" which Plato is fond of using may be applied to the process of development of human knowledge.
  • Against all the retrogressive endeavors (Bohm, Schrödinger etc. and in some sense also Einstein) I am sure that the statistical character of the ψ-function and hence of nature’s laws – on which you insisted from the very beginning against Schrödinger’s resistance – will define the style of the laws at least for some centuries. It may be that later, e.g. in connection with the living processes, one will find something entirely new, but to dream of a way back, back to the classical style of Newton-Maxwell (and these are just dreams these gentlemen are giving themselves up to) seems to me hopeless, digressive, bad taste. And, we could add, it is not even a beautiful dream.
    • Letter to Max Born, December 1954, in Wissenschaftlicher Briefwechsel mit Bohr, Einstein, Heisenberg u.a, Springer, 1999, p. 887, as translated in J. Kofler and A. Zeilinger, "Quantum Information and Randomness", European Review, Vol. 18, No. 4, 2010, pp. 469–480.
  • One shouldn’t work on semiconductors, that is a filthy mess; who knows whether any semiconductors exist.
    • Über Halbleiter soll man nicht arbeiten, das ist eine Schweinerei; wer weiss, ob es überhaupt Halbleiter gibt.
    • Letter to Peierls, 29 September 1931, Wolfgang Pauli – Wissenschaftlicher Briefwechsel mit Bohr, Einstein, Heisenberg u.a. Band II: 1930–1939, Springer, 1985, p. 94.

Quotes about PauliEdit

  • It is well known that theoretical physicists cannot handle experimental equipment; it breaks whenever they touch it. Pauli was such a good theoretical physicist that something usually broke in the lab whenever he merely stepped across the threshold. A mysterious event that did not seem at first to be connected with Pauli's presence once occurred in Professor J. Franck's laboratory in Göttingen. Early one afternoon, without apparent cause, a complicated apparatus for the study of atomic phenomena collapsed. Franck wrote humorously about this to Pauli at his Zürich address and, after some delay, received an answer in an envelope with a Danish stamp. Pauli wrote that he had gone to visit Bohr and at the time of the mishap in Franck's laboratory his train was stopped for a few minutes at the Göttingen railroad station. You may believe this anecdote or not, but there are many other observations concerning the reality of the Pauli Effect!
    • George Gamow, in Thirty Years That Shook Physics : The Story of Quantum Theory (1966), p. 64
  • The famous physicist Wolfgang Pauli is said to have remarked that the deepest pleasure in science comes from finding an instantiation, a home, for some deeply felt, deeply held image.
    • Stuart Kauffman, in The Origins of Order : Self Organization and Selection in Evolution (1993), p. vii

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