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Philosophical Consequences of Quantum Theory: Reflections on Bell's Theorem

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From the beginning, the implications of quantum theory for our most general understanding of the world have been a matter of intense debate. Einstein argues that the theory had to be regarded as fundamentally incomplete. Its inability, for example, to predict the exact time of decay of a single radioactive atom had to be due to a failure of the theory and not due to a perm From the beginning, the implications of quantum theory for our most general understanding of the world have been a matter of intense debate. Einstein argues that the theory had to be regarded as fundamentally incomplete. Its inability, for example, to predict the exact time of decay of a single radioactive atom had to be due to a failure of the theory and not due to a permanent inability on our part or a fundamental indeterminism in nature itself.   In 1964, John Bell derived a theorem which showed that any deterministic theory which preserved "locality" (i.e., which rejected action at a distance) would have certain consequences for measurements performed at a distance from one another. An experimental check seems to show that these consequences are not, in fact, realized. The correlation between the sets of events is much stronger than any "local" deterministic theory could allow. What is more, this stronger correlation is precisely that which is predicted by quantum theory. The astonishing result is that local deterministic theories of the classical sort seem to be permanently excluded. Not only can the individual decay not be predicted, but no future theory can ever predict it. The contributors in this volume wrestle with this conclusion. Some welcome it; others leave open a return to at least some kind of deterministic world, one which must however allow something like action-at-a distance.


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From the beginning, the implications of quantum theory for our most general understanding of the world have been a matter of intense debate. Einstein argues that the theory had to be regarded as fundamentally incomplete. Its inability, for example, to predict the exact time of decay of a single radioactive atom had to be due to a failure of the theory and not due to a perm From the beginning, the implications of quantum theory for our most general understanding of the world have been a matter of intense debate. Einstein argues that the theory had to be regarded as fundamentally incomplete. Its inability, for example, to predict the exact time of decay of a single radioactive atom had to be due to a failure of the theory and not due to a permanent inability on our part or a fundamental indeterminism in nature itself.   In 1964, John Bell derived a theorem which showed that any deterministic theory which preserved "locality" (i.e., which rejected action at a distance) would have certain consequences for measurements performed at a distance from one another. An experimental check seems to show that these consequences are not, in fact, realized. The correlation between the sets of events is much stronger than any "local" deterministic theory could allow. What is more, this stronger correlation is precisely that which is predicted by quantum theory. The astonishing result is that local deterministic theories of the classical sort seem to be permanently excluded. Not only can the individual decay not be predicted, but no future theory can ever predict it. The contributors in this volume wrestle with this conclusion. Some welcome it; others leave open a return to at least some kind of deterministic world, one which must however allow something like action-at-a distance.

30 review for Philosophical Consequences of Quantum Theory: Reflections on Bell's Theorem

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kiki023

    A collection of thought-provoking essays by philosopher-physicists, all of whom find themselves wrestling with the consequences of what appear to be empirical violations of local realism. Contained within their musings on this profound demonstration of experimental metaphysics are sometimes provocative interpretations and suggestions ranging from a universal holism intrinsic to nature, superluminal causal influences, the impossibility of assigning definite physical states to unobserved systems, A collection of thought-provoking essays by philosopher-physicists, all of whom find themselves wrestling with the consequences of what appear to be empirical violations of local realism. Contained within their musings on this profound demonstration of experimental metaphysics are sometimes provocative interpretations and suggestions ranging from a universal holism intrinsic to nature, superluminal causal influences, the impossibility of assigning definite physical states to unobserved systems, and even potential applications to the mind-body problem (something I find fairly ludicrous). The contributors within possess a remarkable ability to explain physical concepts and their philosophical consequences without recourse to the abstract reifications of popular science. Despite its age, it is an insightful collection of lucid essays on the metaphysical implications of Bell's Theorem and those interested in the philosophy of physics should not miss it.

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