Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Quantum Reality: the Bell Inequalities and Realism


As you may know from my book site, I have been reading Biocentrism by Lonza, and in there he asserts something like reality does not exist until someone is there to observe it.

As evidence he points the deviation of quantum mechanics from classical opitcs in a class of optical experiments, which I will call the Bell Inequalities (Bell, Physics 1:3 (1964) 195-200) further expanded by Leggett (Leggett, Found. Phys. 33:10(2003) 1469.

I have not yet made it through Leggett, but I am happy to say I found a simplified version of Bell by J. H. Eberly (Eberly, Am J Phys 70:3 (2002) 276-279) -- this is easy to read and I recommend it. One can go through the whole derivation in a few minutes and then try to figure out where the key assumptions are.

Many people come away from this with something like the Copenhagen Interpretation that begins with Zen-like challenges to causality and it is this springboard that Lonza uses to build Biocentrism. Others use it to assert that some force is causing distant objects to behave in a coordinated way; non-locality in the jargon.

I am going to assert this is all turning on a conceptual problem that early 20th century physicists seem to have with wave/particle duality. I may be old, but I am young enough to have been brought up with quantum mechanics, and I have always thought that this wave/particle distinction was false.

In the tests of Bell's Theorum, Bell counts the photons like particles, but the photons route themselves through the polarization detectors like waves. The problem is that the photons are neither particles nor waves. Bell says the photons go through one polarization filter or its complement, but that is false, the photon goes through both.

Stop thinking that photons need to be one place or another. The photon in its wavelike character can do both. Photons are fuzzy objects that have both wave and particle character.

Rather than abandoning Reality, Causality, Locality or other central notions of physics and philosophy, it seems much simpler to say that photons are both particles and waves. Stop counting them like particles.