The description of the 1993 English translation of The Quantum Dice, by Ponomarev and Kurchatov, as well as one of the quotes for chapter 2 of Quantum Computation and Quantum Information, by Nielsen and Chuang (2000), contain this quote attributed to Einstein:

Quantum mechanics: Real Black Magic Calculus.

The former reference attributes it to "a letter in 1925". Nielsen and Matsuschak specify that it is a letter to a colleague from that year in their recent essay "Quantum Mechanics Distilled". And finally, Nielsen tweeted in 2023 that Chuang had a reference for this quote.

However, neither my Google fu nor (presumably) my Deutsch are up to the task of actually finding the letter in question.

In what letter does this quote of Einstein's actually occur?

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Einstein's papers and correspondence are digitized, translated into English and searchable on Princeton's site. There is only one occurrence of "magic" in a 1925 letter (vol. 15, 138 to Besso) and it is not it:"The most interesting thing that theory has produced recently is the Heisenberg-Born-Jordan theory of quantum states. Such a magic formula, in which infinite determinants (matrices) take the place of Cartesian coordinates!" Even searches without time restrictions return nothing similar. Maybe Chuang got it from ChatGPT? $\endgroup$
    – Conifold
    Mar 14 at 5:21
  • $\begingroup$ I tried that search too—likewise, searching "calculus" yields nothing useful (certainly not in 1925). It's possible The Quantum Dice is the true origin, I suppose. $\endgroup$
    – elutionary
    Mar 14 at 18:38


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.