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Max Born, the ‘rival’ of Einstein who believed that “God plays dice”

Max Born was a German theoretical physicist of Jewish origin. Winner of a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1954, Born is considered one of the most eminent scientists of the 20th century. During the years of Nazi rule in Germany Max Born settled in England after being deposed from his chair in his native country in 1933. In the United Kingdom he adopted British nationality and taught in Cambridge and, from 1936 to 1953, in Edinburgh.

Member of many academies, including the one of Sciences of the old Soviet Union, was author of important works on the theory of the atom and crystals. He achieved great notoriety for having participated in the creation of quantum mechanics, in 1925-1926, and on the theory of relativity. In addition, he established an essential critical clarification of quantum mechanics.The German scientist maintained a peculiar friendship throughout his life with Albert Einstein, who used him to express his doubts about quantum mechanics. Both interpreted nature in a diametrically different way. Sample of their discrepancies were confirmed in their epistolary relationship.

In one of the correspondence letters they exchanged, Einstein told him: “You believe in a God who plays dice and I believe in the total ordering and laws of a world that exists objectively and that I try to capture in a frantically speculative way. ” The famous phrase created some controversy, since Einstein had to clarify that he did not believe in any divinity and that with the word ‘God’ he was referring, like other scientists, to the universe. The sentence wanted to leave behind the theoretical ‘rivalry’ between the two, although they never lost complicity.

Max Born, who died on June 5, 1970, at the age of 87, owes one of the fundamental ideas of quantum mechanics: when it was clarified that the movement of elementary particles is linked to several wave processes and can be calculated Using the wave equation, Born assumed that this equation determines only the probability of a given position of the particles at each moment. Such an idea about the laws of the movement of the “elementary” particles was used by the idealists to “ground”, with the data of quantum mechanics, the indeterminism of the processes that occur in the microworld.

Born himself paid tribute to such an idealistic conception; subsequently, however, it has approximated a more general interpretation of determinism in which the statistical laws determining the behavior of “elementary” particles were included.

Born studied at the universities of Breslau, his native city, Heidelberg and Zurich. During the studies for his doctorate, his thesis of mathematics (‘Studies on the stability of the elastic line in the plane and the space, under different conditions of contour’) was defended in the University of Gottinga the 13 of June of 1906.

Three years later, on October 23, 1909, he obtained a doctorate degree. At the University of Gottingen he came into contact with many leading scientists and mathematicians, among them Felix Klein, David Hilbert, Hermann Minkowski, who were the “high priests” of mathematics, and were known as the ‘mandarins’. Soon after his arrival, Born strengthened ties with these men.

From the first class he took with Hilbert, he saw that Born had exceptional abilities and chose him as the conference scribe, whose function was to write the class notes. Being a writer in the class put him in regular contact, of incalculable value, with Hilbert, during which Born benefited from his intellectual generosity, who became Born’s mentor and finally chose him to be the first to occupy the Semi-official post of auxiliary, unpaid.

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