Monday, June 13, 2011

Reality and the quantum theory

N. David Mermin, in a 1985 essay, Is the moon there when nobody looks?, wrote:
“Anybody who’s not bothered by Bell’s theorem has to have rocks in his head.”
To this moderate point of view I would only add the observation that contemporary physicists come in two varieties.
Type 1 physicists are bothered by EPR and Bell’s theorem.
Type 2 (the majority) are not, but one has to distinguish two subvarieties.
Type 2a physicists explain why they are not bothered. Their explanations tend either to miss the point entirely (like Born’s to Einstein) or to contain physical assertions that can be shown to be false.
Type 2b are not bothered and refuse to explain why. Their position is unassailable. (There is a variant of type 2b who say that Bohr straightened out the whole business, but refuse to explain how.
The physicists would only be bothered or confused if they listen to explanations like Mermin's. Bell only showed the impossibility of a local hidden variable theory. No one has been able to make such a theory work anyway. I would be bothered if there were any evidence for a local hidden variable theory.

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