Quantum Crackpot-a Challenge Taken
Oxford University professor Joy Christian wrote a paper in which he claims to have disproved Bell’s theorem. Since my work is similar, I agree with him. But some took extreme exception and started a blog with the view that anyone who disbelieves Bell’s theorem is a crackpot. The sarcastic name of this blog is telling:
I will answer this challenge soon.
If you state support for Christian or argue against their view, a number of people jump on you with personal attacks, suppositions about your ignorance of physics, questions about your competence, and label you a crackpot. If you agree with them, you are brilliant.
The blog is on a larger website called Science 2.0 run by Hank Campbell. Most of the contributors to this site are scientists presenting and discussing their ideas in a cordial manner. However Campbell supports the crackpot site and when I started a counter blog, abhorring the treatment of Christian, my blog was deleted and my credentials were revoked.
What is the reason for this hostility?
There is, of course, great collegiality between the vast number of scientists who are regular people working towards common goals and share their ideas in scholarly writings, conferences and workshops. Even so, it is necessary to stake claims to new ideas for career advancement, awards, prizes, and those coveted research dollars. Of course disagreements occur and people passionately argue their points and support them with objective data, generally working them out.
The foundations (or the meaning) of quantum mechanics is a historic and particularly antagonistic battle that has gone on since the 1920’s with perhaps a glimmer of an end in sight. I very briefly summarize this here to set the stage. It is a fervent debate that has made and destroyed careers and offers great recognition to anyone who resolves the questions. It also brings out the worst in some, as evidenced by the Crackpot blog.
There are two sides:
Einstein: “God does not play dice.” Or from Einstein’s view of reality, Nature should not fundamentally be statistical. However that is exactly what quantum theory predicts. Einstein felt, indeed showed, that quantum mechanics is incomplete.
Bohr: Nature is complementary. We cannot know, indeed we don’t need to know, everything about a system simultaneously. Quantum theory describes what we need to know for the experiments we can perform.
I am on the side of Einstein
I am in a very small minority. To be truthful, the vast majority of working scientists who use quantum mechanics no longer worry about this question. Quantum mechanics works so well and gives such accurate values and deep insight into the microscopic that there is no doubt it is correct.
But is it a complete description?
Bohr said yes and Einstein said no, but for now at least Bohr has won. This is partly due to an error in assumption by a famous mathematician, John von Neumann (the father of the modern computer). That incorrect result supported Bohr’s view for thirty years, and established his Copenhagen Interpretation. But the plot thickened in 1964 when John Bell published a theorem about classical events and, since quantum is not classical, found a way to put a value to the quantum correlation between two particles prepared in a particular way (called EPR pairs). From quantum theory, this correlation is accounted for by entanglement. It is a purely quantum property. This entanglement correlation can be detected between separated EPR pairs and leads to the conclusion that it stretches to great distances.
How this happens is unknown and is at the core of the debate. It requires accepting that non-local connectivity exists between entangled particles even light years apart (through imagined “quantum channels”).
Einstein believed there must be “hidden variables” that have been missed which would complete quantum mechanics. However Bell’s theorem appears to predict that those hidden variables must be non-local—just like that stretched entanglement!
For many, non-locality is an extremely difficult concept to accept, so maybe Bell is wrong.
Today that is heresy in Physics.
Bell’s theorem is the basis for believing quantum mechanics to be complete. It is the basis for the burgeoning field of quantum information. Instant Teleportation is thought to be possible because of Bell’s theorem, and indeed experiments appear to demonstrate it. But there is no physical explanation and non-locality ranks amongst the top ten unresolved questions in physics according to Wikipedia.
If Bell’s theorem is wrong, the whole view of microscopic physics must change.
In a nutshell I do not question Bell’s math but rather his assumption about the properties of spin. If spin has a simple structure, then the problem of non-locality is resolved. So far this has generally been rejected, but the reasons given by referees are subjective (they do not like the conclusions (or the consequences) so it must be wrong) but no mathematical errors have been found.
The final proof of this approach is to reproduce the experimental data from the theory which, as I mentioned, will be presented in a blog soon.
In fact the blog castigating Christian is the tip of the iceberg in the foundations debate. I believe there is a “circling of the wagons” in defense of some research areas that rest of Bell because not everything fits yet. These nagging questions become evident when a community starts to use the phrase “Quantum Weirdness” to explain their results.
In my next entry I give a Counter Challenge to the Crackpot Challenge.
Then I will show that a product state produces the EPR data in the same way as the experiment is done.