In comparison to classical physics, quantum physics predicts that the properties of a quantum mechanical system depend on the measurement context, i.e. whether or not other system measurements are carried out.
A team of physicists from Innsbruck, Austria, led by Christian Roos and Rainer Blatt, have for the first time proven in a comprehensive experiment that it is not possible to explain quantum phenomena in non-contextual terms. The scientists report on their findings in the current issue of Nature.
Quantum mechanics describes the physical state of light and matter and formulates concepts that totally contradict the classical conception we have of nature. Thus, physicists have tried to explain non-causal phenomena in quantum mechanics by classical models of hidden variables, thereby excluding randomness, which is omnipresent in quantum theory. In 1967, however, the physicists Simon Kochen and Ernst Specker proved that measurements have to be contextual when explaining quantum phenomena by hidden variables. This means that the result of one measurement depends on which other measurements are performed simultaneously. Interestingly, the simultaneous measurements here are compatible and do not disturb each other.
Randomness cannot be excluded
In 1935 already, Albert Einstein, Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen questioned whether quantum mechanics theory is complete in the sense of a realistic physical theory – a criticism that is now well know in the scientific world as the EPR paradox. In the mid 1960s, John Bell showed that quantum theory cannot be a real and at the same time local theory, which, in the meantime, has also been proven experimentally. Kochen and Specker's results exclude other theoretical models but until now it was difficult to provide a convincing experimental proof. Following a proposition by the Spaniard Adán Cabello, the Innsbruck scientists have now successfully proven this point and produced unambiguous results experimentally. The physicists are supported by the Austrian Science Funds (FWF), the European Union, the Federation of Austrian Industry Tyrol, and Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA).
Christian Roos | EurekAlert!
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