Physicists debate whether quantum math is as real as atoms

Words like ‘ontic’ and ‘epistemic’ are hurled as weapons in war over meaning of subatomic equations

still from the movie "A Boy and His Atom"

Physicist-philosopher Ernst Mach denied that atoms were more than a hypothetical tool, but later work confirmed their existence — as did IBM's 2013 stop-motion movie "A Boy and His Atom," made by precisely positioning individual atoms. These days, physicists debate whether quantum wave functions are as real as atoms or just tools for forecasting phenomena. 

Courtesy: IBM

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