The origins of quantum drama and the critical view of Paul Ehrenfest

R. Guzmán, J.A. Cervera


In this paper we address the quantum drama that emerged from tensions around the different paradigms of physical explanation that had been developed throughout the nineteenth century. We will draw special attention to the relevance that, in order to understand this revolution in physics, have the scientific dimensions that go beyond its experimental and logical aspects, namely the important role played by the imagination, the use of mental experiments, the use of simple models, analogies, metaphors, etc. The criticism and contribution of Paul Ehrenfest on the quantum hypothesis, which he was interested in, unlike other physicists, from the very beginning, is a very valuable resource for studying the origins and these facets of quantum theory. In his writings on the subject, Ehrenfest strives to clarify the validity of the analogies and methodologies used and cares about the nature of the hypothesis, assumptions and conditions used, giving his thoughts a character of epistemological interest. We will show in what way the success attained by physics in these times of conceptual struggle, probably depended on the existence of a balance between the conservative attitude of some scientists and the more open nature of others, and between imagination and creativity of certain physicists and the skeptical and critical character of others.


Paul Ehrenfest; quantum mechanics; energy quanta; quantum hypothesis

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Revista Mexicana de Física E

ISSN: 2683-2216 (on line), 1870-3542 (print)

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