Niels Bohr, the principle of complementarity and Yin-Yang Duality

Niels Bohr (1885-1962) was one of the greatest physicists of the 20th century. He received a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922 for his contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum theory.

Bohr was a physicist admired by his colleagues worldwide. Oppenheimer said about him that "It would be difficult to exaggerate how much I venerate Bohr". In 1920, Einstein wrote to Bohr: "It is not usual in life for a human being to have caused me such joy by his mere presence as you have done". Paul Dirac described Bohr as the "Newton of the atom" and "the deepest thinker I've ever known". Bohr was pioneer in contributing to the understanding of atomic structure and quantum physics. He also conceived the principle of complementarity, which he said he applied to all important issues of life including physics.

The Britannica defines the principle of complementarity as a phenomena on atomic dimensions that describes both wave and particle properties. The behavior of such phenomena as light and electrons is sometimes wavelike and sometimes particle-like. It's impossible to observe both the wave and particle aspects simultaneously however they present a fuller description than either of the two taken alone.

This principle is only observed on a small-scale phenomenon, however is essentially incomplete until both aspects are known.

In the theory, the correct statement of the wave-particle duality is quantum particles sometimes behave like a particle and sometimes like a wave. The issue here is to figure out when that sometimes is. Nowadays, some physicists think Bohr's complementarity idea is too "vague" to be of any value.

However, Edward Teller wrote: "Bohr was the incarnation of complementarity, the insistence that every important issue has an opposite side that appears as mutually exclusive with the other. The understanding of the question becomes possible only if the existence of both sides is recognized".

Bohr's theory applies to important questions in general, not just those that are formulated in physics. He was always looking at things from both sides, reason why he was fascinated with the Yin & Yang Symbol. He designed one himself around the symbol which he envisioned as the traditional representation of the principle of complementarity on which he based his views of the fundamental laws of physics:


Bohr was deep and profound. It's being considered that Bohr made Einstein realize Quantum Mechanics was correct but Einstein though his theory was still incomplete. "Free choice" was introduced by Bohr in his response to Albert Einstein's challenge to the "completeness" of Quantum Mechanics.

Bohr seemed to deny the existence of an "objective reality", but clearly knew and said that the physical world is largely independent of human observations. In classical physics, the physical world is assumed to be completely independent of the act of observing the world.

Bohr suggested complementarity could illuminate the mind-body problem, it might provide for the difference between organic and inorganic matter, and it could underlie other classic dualisms like subject/object, reason versus passion and even free volition versus causality. These complementarity relations are a fundamental feature of the human cognition, which you can find analogies in many other connections. As such, Chinese Medicine should be explained based on current analogies which human beings can observe or experience in others scenarios as there is always a parallelism on natural events around the world.

The Yin&Yang symbol, which most people have seen in a variety of contexts, describes something very elemental and incredibly complex. It encompasses everything in the Universe. Yin and Yang are two opposite yet complementary energies.

References to Yin and Yang date back 700 BC to the I Ching, which already described an understanding and representation of dynamic balances of opposites and the perception of profound fundamental principles as an unique way of viewing the world and the greater universe.

In brief, Everything contains Yin and Yang and nothing is absolute with Yin and Yang. The designation of something as Yin or Yang is always relative to something else (e.g day is Yang but late day, as it begins to turn to night, which is Yin). As such, we might consider Yin and Yang as a constant harmony changing balanced state.

These duality's expression is present everywhere as everything can be explained by using Yin and Yang terms.