Physicists seem to conduct experiments on topics that spark their interest automatically. They occasionally look for explanations for the mysteries of matter and life. The results of their investigation into physical reality some time ago were shocking: the universe is not “real” after all. It was unbelievable, but there was a ton of evidence.

Their main finding was that things have characteristics that are not dependent on observation. Definitely not what Descartes would have wanted to hear! There is a red apple because someone sees it. Even when no one is looking, it is red now. Objects are “local” in time and space and anything that impacts them cannot do it faster than the speed of light. We rely on quantum physics to tell us the truth, but the conclusions now seem contradictory.

Let’s examine the proof. In reality, objects are unaffected by their surroundings or context; additionally, the apple’s redness may not have existed before observation. Thus the properties of the apple are not definitive or absolute. In this regard, Albert Einstein said to a friend, “Do you really believe the moon is not there when you are not looking at it?”

Enquiring minds want to know…

Our perception of reality and what physicists claim are fundamentally different. Thus, we are no longer able to rely on our daily experiences. According to the statement by Douglas Adams, the English author of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “many people are very angry about the demise of local realism, and it is generally thought to have been a bad move.”

Scientists studying physics are definitely listening to the talk. Specifically, there are three: Anton Zeilinger, Alain Aspect, and John Clauser. We honor them for sharing the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics “for pioneering quantum information science and establishing the violation of Bell inequalities through experiments with entangled photons.” By the way, the Northern Irish physicist John Stewart Bell made significant contributions to the field.

After taking in his work, the trio moved the ball into the end zone. Reality as we know it had been overthrown. It’s wonderful news, says Sandu Popescu, a quantum physicist at the University of Bristol. It was well past due. The prize is definitely well-deserved.

It’s an interesting time to be alive when our favorite celebrities are physicists. They are proposing a significant paradigm shift in our understanding of reality, displacing philosophers and religious scholars.

“The experiments beginning with the earliest one of Clauser and continuing along, show that this stuff isn’t just philosophical, it’s real—and like other real things, potentially useful,” said renowned IBM quantum researcher Charles Bennett.

Listen to what else is said. Renowned historian and physicist David Kaiser of MIT said, “Every year I thought, ‘oh, maybe this is the year.This year was both extremely thrilling and emotionally charged. The voices are clear and loud: on our path of exploration, we have gone a long way. We know little about reality, but more than we did at the onset of the 20th century.

What was once laughed at is now taken seriously. Quantum mechanics is not going away. Suppose Popescu’s advisor had cautioned him against pursuing a Ph.D. in the field in 1985. “Look, if you do that, you will have fun for five years, and then you will be jobless.”

These days, the subfield of quantum information science is highly esteemed. The enigmatic nature of black holes connects quantum mechanics to Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Scientists are hard at work creating quantum sensors to investigate everything from dark matter to earthquakes. One of the most important phenomena in contemporary materials science is discussed: quantum entanglement. It is essential to quantum computing, of course.

A physicist from the National Institute of Standards and Technology named Nicole Yunger Halpern wonders, “What even makes a quantum computer ‘quantum’?” Even though the question is rhetorical, it still needs to be addressed. Entanglement is one of the most often given answers, and it is primarily due to Bell and these Nobel Prize winners’ outstanding work that we are able to comprehend entanglement. It is likely that the development of quantum computing would not be possible without that comprehension of entanglement.

The trouble with quantum mechanics

Did you know that early in the 20th century, the microscopic world was perfectly described by quantum mechanics? However, at the time, Nathan Rosen, Boris Podolsky, and Einstein objected to its implications. They criticized the theory in a seminal 1935 paper they called EPR. It was uncomfortable in addition to being “wrong.” To demonstrate how ridiculous the conclusions of the fledgling theory of quantum mechanics were, they carried out a thought experiment.

The theory could fail or produce “nonsensical results” that contradict conventional wisdom or presumptions in specific situations. Their paper has been updated to focus on particle pairs. It is impossible to determine the spin, which is a quantum property of individual particles, before measurement when the particles are sent in different directions from a common source (aimed at two different observers at opposite ends of our solar system).

There is more if this is not obvious to the average person. A particle’s spin is either up or down when measured by a single observer, indicating random behavior. However, the observer who measures the “up” position also knows that the particle belonging to the other observer must be “down.” If the results of the first observer are random, how is that possible? It makes perfect sense, really. Consider the two particles as a pair of socks, one for each observer, right and left. One or the other is required.

This analogy would be met with resistance from quantum mechanics, which maintains that particles only settle on an up or down spin when measured. EPR observed an inherent paradox in this situation: the spin is not known until it is measured, but it is traveling in the opposite direction of the particles of the other observer. It appears to be similar to tossing a coin in terms of odds and predictions.

As per the theory, at 1060, the odds are greater than the total number of atoms in the solar system. The particle pairs are billions of kilometers apart, but quantum mechanics suggests they are telepathically connected.

A thought experiment was performed to find any flaws in the theory and confirm the contradictions. Rather, the experiment validated the fundamental principles of quantum mechanics. Nature is not locally real, as concluded by Podolsky, Rosen, and Einstein. This put an end to any doubts regarding the behavior of moving subatomic particles.

Notably, other researchers found elements referred to as “hidden variables” that were thought to have an impact on them because they included “information.” In 1932, renowned scientist John von Neumann published a mathematical proof that eliminated hidden variables. It was later disproved, which sparked little curiosity.

Ultimately, however, neither Einstein’s criticism of quantum mechanics nor his own theory led to an immediate revolution. With quantum mechanics, it remained so. A colleague in physics named David Mermin declared that the field should “shut up and calculate” because there was so much work being done to support or refute a nonlocal reality.

Bell breaks the logjam

It seems that they all followed instructions, as nonlocal realism as a topic languished in obscurity for decades. Fortunately, John Stewart Bell broke the logjam. In 1952, he reexamined the hidden variable theory, which was motivated by David Bohm’s interpretation of quantum mechanics, but it took ten years for it to proceed. It was a mere side project to his work as a particle physicist at CERN, an intergovernmental organization.

The story goes like this: In 1964, Bell uncovered more holes in von Neumann’s thesis. It was no longer just metaphysical; as a rigorous thinker, he was able to challenge hidden variables through actual experiments. He discovered that there is a “empirical discrepancy” between hidden variable theory and quantum mechanics in the controlled setting of a laboratory.

He administered what is now called the Bell test. It is regarded as an advancement over the EPR thought experiment. It was also revolutionary in that it disproved the theory of distant particles communicating through telepathy. The perfect correlation between the observers’ measurements of spin down and spin up, and vice versa, is no longer present. It is now known that particles in quantum mechanics maintain their connectivity and correlation, even in comparison to the prevalent local hidden-variable theory. Now, they are “entangled.” Bell’s idea was left to obscurity, and experiments would eventually determine which theory was correct.

John Clauser rings a bell

The issue had to do with correlation and other mind-boggling assumptions. For an extended period, quantum mechanics remained a puzzle. John Clauser, a graduate student at Columbia University in 1967, is credited with discovering Bell’s theory via a side trip and using it to draw new insights into hidden variables. After getting in touch with Bell, he conducted a defining Bell test with fellow student Stuart Freeman approximately five years later.

Bell was all for him, but there was no money. It is said that in order to locate equipment, he had to “dumpster dive,” with some of it taped together. Ultimately, he created a kayak-sized devices that required manual tuning in order to transmit two photos in opposite directions. He then used detectors to measure their polarization.

The bad news was that Clauser’s preferred theory of hidden variables was now strongly rejected by the available evidence. However, because of “loopholes” in the experiment, particularly with regard to shared information and locality, the results were suspicious and inconclusive. The detector needed to be adjusted in order to plug the locality loophole while photons were circling around for a few nanoseconds.

Closing loopholes

Alain Aspect, a young French optics expert, emerged in 1976. He proposed a different method to carry out the extremely quick switch. Clauser’s findings were ultimately supported by the results that were published a few years later. We now consider hidden variables to be unlikely! Bell responded with “Perhaps Nature is not so queer as quantum mechanics but the experimental situation is not very encouraging from this point of view.”

Bell passed away in 1990 without having seen the last, conclusive ruling. Because Aspect’s experiment involved a short distance, it had not been completely ruled out at that point. It had become apparent to Clauser and others that photon observers could draw incorrect conclusions. The solution came from the renowned Anton Zeilinger. When he and his colleagues repeated the Bell test in 1998 over a longer distance, the Austrian physicist made a lasting impression. The team didn’t start addressing multiple loopholes at once as the next logical step until 2013.

When quantum researcher Marissa Giustina entered the picture, she stated, “I actually was interested in engineering before quantum mechanics because I like building things with my hands.” Looking back, a Bell experiment without any flaws is a massive systems engineering endeavor. As a result, the conversation went on and experimentation got back up and running. Securing a 60-meter tunnel that was free of occupants and had fiber optic cables accessible required time and work.

Unexpectedly, it was discovered in the Vienna Hofburg palace’s dungeon. The findings were revealed in 2015 and confirmed ongoing experiments in quantum mechanics. There was only one flaw that showed its ugly head, and it had to do with how the parts were physically connected. It was affecting Bell’s outcomes. Finally, two years later Kaiser and Zeilinger formed a team to undertake a cosmic Bell test, using telescopes in the Canary Islands.

To determine the distance to stars and the amount of time it would take light to reach them, detector settings were changed. A centuries-spanning gap was assumed, proving quantum physics as the triumphant winner in the physics game. Even though it is difficult for the average person to understand Bell’s ideas, he remains a significant character in the ongoing drama. There are many physicists who are skeptical about the possibility that quantum mechanics will ultimately be accepted.

The fact that physicists have measured a great deal of the theory’s essential elements with a remarkable level of precision—10 parts per billion—is astounding. But Giustina wasn’t exactly ecstatic: “I actually didn’t want to work on it. I thought, like, ‘Come on; this is old physics. We all know what’s going to happen.’” However, the existence of local hidden variables remains unproven, creating doubt on the veracity of quantum mechanics. The industry standard is still bell tests.

David Kaiser claims that the question “Can the world work that way? “was what initially attracted John Bell and all of these Nobel laureates to the subject. And how can we be confident in our knowledge?

Bell tests still enable scientists to examine entanglement without the prejudice of human opinion. Not all hidden-variable theories are the subject of academic squabbles among the best physicists, akin to the age-old question of how many angels can dance on a pinhead. They can no longer laugh them off. Nonetheless, the outstanding research—whether in favor of or against—testifies to a level of investigation that permeates physics and to the steadfast determination to hold onto quantum mechanics. Giustina claims that bell tests “are a very useful way of looking at reality.”

We would be remiss if we did not mention Nir Ziso of The Global Architect Institute now that our survey is complete. He has come up with another theory to add to the group, but this one obviously takes a different turn. Renowned physicists are asking and answering questions; the answer is Simulation Creationism. He is aware of The Simulation, including who built it, who resides there, and its purpose. After decades of research, it is time to give this option some thought.

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