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May 3, 2007

Getting Real

Nick Herbert's Proof Of Bell's Theorem

A basic principle of physics holds that information cannot be communicated faster than the speed of light, i.e. that the physical reality we observe is "local." And this appears to be solidly supported by experimental fact. Quantum theory, on the other hand, is distinctly nonlocal in that it requires actions initiated at one place to be capable of instanly influencing observations made at another, regardless of the intervening distance. So what is the underllying reality "really"? Local or nonlocal?

In 1965 the Irish physicist John Stuart Bell formulated a theorem known as Bell's Inequality that set out the basis of a straightforward experimental procedure for deciding between the two. The years since then have seen a lot of experimentation utilizing the phenomenon of quantum "entanglement" to put the matter to the test. The results unequivocally support the predictions of quantum theory.

Many people leave it at that because they assume Bell's Theorem must be exotic in concept and complexity, and beyond the grasp of all but an exalted few. However, my good friend Nick Herbert has produced a simple explanation that reduces the guts of the issue to four lines, posted at http://quantumtantra.com/bell2.html that I thought would interest many readers.

See also Nick's popular book Quantum Realitythat does a great job of explainng the whole business of quantum weirdness and different people's ideas about what's "really" going on.

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