Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Finding experiment loopholes

Caroline H Thompson published some good papers on quantum entanglement before she died in 2006, and she left a summary online here. She has this at the end of a rejected paper:
Attempts at publishing the core of the current paper in American Physical Society journals have failed due to application of the following editorial policy statement:

In 1964, John Bell proved that local realistic theories led to an upper bound on correlations between distant events (Bell's inequality) and that quantum mechanics had predictions that violated that inequality. Ten years later, experimenters started to test in the laboratory the violation of Bell's inequality (or similar predictions of local realism). No experiment is perfect, and various authors invented "loopholes" such that the experiments were still compatible with local realism. Of course nobody proposed a local realistic theory that would reproduce quantitative predictions of quantum theory (energy levels, transition rates, etc.).

This loophole hunting has no interest whatsoever in physics. It tells us nothing on the properties of nature. It makes no prediction that can be tested in new experiments. Therefore I recommend not to publish such papers in Physical Review A. Perhaps they might be suitable for a journal on the philosophy of science.
This seems like closed-minded thinking to me. The editor is saying that local realism has been disproved by experiments, and we should ignore the fact that those experiments have loopholes.

I think that Thompson was on to something, and that those experiments have been oversold. Those experiments are contrary to local hidden variables, but not local realism. Those weaknesses need to be clarified. In one paper, she says, "This is not fair on the outside world, which is quite unnecessarily being subjected to the nonsense of teleportation, time-travel, wormholes, and all the other paraphernalia of dogma gone wrong." I wonder if anyone picked up her work where she left off.

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