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The Gestalt Problem in Quantum Theory: Generation of Molecular Shape by the Environment

Anton Amann
Synthese
Vol. 97, No. 1 (Oct., 1993), pp. 125-156
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20117832
Page Count: 32
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The Gestalt Problem in Quantum Theory: Generation of Molecular Shape by the Environment
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Abstract

Quantum systems have a holistic structure, which implies that they cannot be divided into parts. In order to create (sub)objects like individual substances, molecules, nuclei, etc., in a universal whole, the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen correlations between all the subentities, e.g. all the molecules in a substance, must be suppressed by perceptual and mental processes. Here the particular problems of Gestalt (≡ shape) perception are compared with the attempts to attribute a shape to a quantum mechanical system like a molecule. Gestalt perception and quantum mechanics turn out (on an informal level) to show similar features and problems: holistic aspects, creation of objects, dressing procedures, influence of the 'observer', classical quantities and structures. The attribute 'classical' of a property or structure means that holistic correlations to any other quantity do not exist or that these correlations are considered as irrelevant and therefore eliminated (either deliberately and by declaration or in a mental process that is not under rational control). An example of an imposed classical structure is the nuclear frame of a molecule. Candidates for classical properties that are not imposed by the observer could be the charge of a particle or the handedness of a molecule. It is argued here that at least part of a molecule's shape can be generated 'automatically' by the environment. A molecular shape of this sort arises in addition to Lamb shift-type energy corrections.

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