Infinite Potential: The Life And Ideas of David Bohm is a gem of a documentary

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This disparity between the observed universe and the real universe is a central hallmark of human thought. Whether it’s the observed world and god or the spiritual, the observed world and platonic forms, the observed world and mathematics, the observed world, the observed world and etc


The implicate order and De Broglie–Bohm theory, or Bohmian mechanics are criminally underappreciated both within and outside of theoretical physics. And he was a victim of McCarthyism. But I have this sinking feeling that this documentary might co-opt his legacy for another What the Bleep Do We Know!? level of anti-scientific bullshit.

Still, I’ll watch it and see if it does that. I dearly want my fears to be wrong. He’s one of my heroes.

ETA: Irrespective of the documentary’s merits, for anyone interested in the ideas of Bohm I recommend his own book Wholeness and the Implicate Order, which while challenging at times, is accessible to the layperson.


Thanks for this.
Who knows? Maybe it’ll encourage me to read the correspondence between Carl Jung and Wolfgang Pauli and then I might just leave it all behind me and start practicing Transcendental Meditation?
Addition: after watching half the doc, I’m really fascinated by this man’s philosophical and political views and incredible analogical reasoning.


Bohm’s intuitions are intellectually stirring, and his book “Wholeness and the implicate order” is a total masterpiece. Looking forward to watch this documentary.


Ya, looks like…but I’ll give it a look. You may also note F David Peat’s bio of Bohm, buried deep in used bookstores probably nowhere (EDIT: OK, just checked Amazon, it’s back in print. Since 1997, to give an idea of the last time I checked it out . What I remember is that it was good. I also liked Peat’s “Einstein’s Moon” on Bell’s inequality…written before the experimental work was done, though)


Oh, wow. As a kid, The Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot really shaped my worldview. To learn there was a deeper, more original source is akin to discovering Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication. Really looking forward to this!!

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Oh dear.

This is a tricky subject and woo abounds. You can do the Young’s two-slit experiment and show that light is a wave, but the light arrives with a quantum of energy at a detector. Young’s two slit experiment works with electrons, atoms, and molecules.

Here’s Jim Al-Khalili’s summary…

tl;dr version: we can calculate what the particles and waves do, with the wave predicting the probability of where the particle would be. This divided the thinkers of the time. Einstein and several others did not like the ‘probability’ side: they felt that ‘real’ things should be deterministic. Others felt that the equations allowed us to predict what happens, and all was fine.

Bohm being the ‘spiritual child of Einstein’ is not a compliment. Einstein picked the wrong side. Determinism requires us to have ‘hidden parameters’ within the wave functions. Even this becomes hard to sustain with Bell’s inequality. You can carry on patching invisible ‘holographic’ extra properties to the wave function, but there is no evidence for this, not even with all the effort in quantum computing.

Wave-particle duality is the Mystery of the Transubstantiation for Physicists. If you stop trying to understand it, and just use it, you can predict all sorts of things. This was summarised by David Mermin as “Shut up, and calculate!”


I think it more like if you stop trying to fit reality into your aesthetic preferences, you can make all kinds of progress. Einstein hated “spooky action at a distance” and “God throwing dice”. Bohm’s early work was supposedly a hidden variables theory that completely reproduced standard QM. The only advantage was it got rid of things Einstein thought were icky. You couldn’t make any new or different predictions. The Bell inequality and subsequent experiments pretty conclusively showed you have to accept at least one of the icky things, so Bohm’s work was flawed. Bohm later work tried to develop a non-local version and again the only supposed advantage is getting rid of something that clashed with some people’s aesthetic preferences. I don’t think making aesthetics a minor consideration is giving up on understanding, it is just admitting that the world is what it is regardless of how we want it to be.


Just ordered Wholeness and the Implicate Order – thanks for the thumbs-up, @GulliverFoyle.

I’ve always been prone to the more mystic interpretations of quantum physics, as were some of the field’s foundational thinkers, including Schrödinger and I believe Bohm (anyone who essentially argues All is One is a mystic, IMHO – a title I grant with only the most positive implications).

And I’ve been meaning to watch the doc, so thank you bb for the reminder. Glad I noticed it, under the ad for a class on real-estate flipping…

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I tried quite hard to avoid using the word ‘belief’ here. Using QM for the first time is more a willing suspension of disbelief. You learn that particles can behave like waves. Then you see the epic calculations that gave precise predictions for the fine structure constant from all possible Feynman graphs. You get used to the idea that not only does the wave function determine the probability that the particle is in any particular place, but there is some other hidden process that stops the same particle turning up anywhere else, and making all the books balance. Then, in QM as in mathematics, “you don’t understand anything, you just get used to it.” to paraphrase Von Neumann.

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I guess I’m weird; I always felt Newtonian mechanics was kind of ad hoc and when I started to learn QM it made much more sense. I will also point out that simple demonstrations of Newton’s laws are not obvious to most people, for example that how fast something falls is not mainly determined by its weight. Why aren’t Newton’s laws considered counterintuitive? Anyway, reality is reality what reality is completely independent of anyone’s opinion or intuition.

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Unfortunately these kinds of documentaries fall down into woo and mysticism really quickly, and this doesn’t look promising on that score. Bohm’s books, especially Wholeness and the Implicate Order, are wonderful and thought-provoking examinations of reality, though. I think Adam Becker’s book - What Is Real? The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics - is a great introduction.

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I would appreciate a demonstration of how the holographic theory explains these things.

Those skeptics are so silly! How do they ever get anything done? /s


The Holographic Universe was the pathway to a freedom of thought that I really needed at that time. I still have those deja vu moments that seem to link me to this past breakthrough.

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Yeah. I read, “The Holographic Universe” when I was young. It was rubbish. The author referenced Bohm a lot, so unfortunately I can’t bear to join the praise party.

This is the fundamental fact that causes me to doubt the proponents of the theory that there MUST be a creator because there are all these various constants that if they were altered by even .000001% the earth or our universe or whatever would be vastly different, uninhabitable, etc.

They take the form : “If the gravitational constant was x instead of y, then life could not exist”

The argument then goes on to say that there are all these other constants (and other various facts) ie. speed of light, atomic weight of hydrogen, whatever… that all come together to make life possible, and if any one of them was different, it just wouldn’t work.

Sure, that’s probably true. But the gravitational constant IS y. Those other constants ARE what they are.

I can make all kinds of arguments with that form - “If I was a penguin, I could not type! Furthermore, if I did not have a computer, if I did not have electricity, etc. then this communication could not be possible. Therefore this communication is ordained by God - you must listen to me!”

Ummm - no.

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I wonder if it would be easier for people to understand QM if our basis for understanding all of reality was more along the lines of “multiverse as probabilistic computer” vs. “multiverse as complicated clock that emerged from nothingness,” which to me makes no sense.

Many of QM’s foundational thinkers incl. Schrödinger did believe in a creator, but in the Advaita Vedanta sense. Man – the world would be a different place indeed, if more Westerners realized that there are much more reasonable “mystical belief systems” than contemporary 3rd-grade mainstream Christianity. That one view of things is not a stand-in for how all people view such things, and, well… Vedanta had a few thousand years head start on the others.

Spirituality – I guess something else white people appropriated from brown people and made entirely more shitty in the process! LOL oh well…

What is this ‘understanding’ of which you speak?

All I know is how we fit new data in with familiar data: a process that probably emerged with consciousness. Mathematics tells us that there are some basis assumption that seem to have great utility, but no way of telling that these are the only ones. Relativity tells us that very fast objects aren’t quite the same as the ones moving at familiar speeds. QM tells us that very tiny objects aren’t quite the same as the ones we see. And reality, the ultimate crib sheet, is ever just what it is.

Bell’s thought experiment (later a real experiment) was a significant advance on what went before: he hypothesised that reality might be deterministic at the quantum scale and deviced an experiment. Bohm seems to deduce properties assuming reality is deterministic at the quantum scale, which might have lead to an experiment and a proof, but hasn’t. Score: Bell 1, Bohm 0 in my book, entirely based on results.

Here’s a similar example: steady-state theory. We had found out that pretty much everywhere in the universe was the same. It was tempting to believe that everywhere was the same too. It is arguably more beautiful than imagining a universe that had a beginning but no end. When we learned how amazingly transparent interstellar space is, we pretty much knew there is no significant matter popping into existence in the empty bits. Steady-state theory was a good thought, and it needed consideration, but in the end not a helpful one. And Fred Hoyle rabidly defending his corner was not one of science’s finer moments.