Quantum Weirdness 107: Bell’s Inequality

Note:  I said in Quantum Weirdness 106 that I was done with this series for now.  There are two possibilities here.  Either my definition of “for now” is a very short time, or I have branched off into an alternate universe where the term “done for now” has no meaning.**  Then again, I could have branched off into an alternative universe where, instead of writing this post, I would be lying on a Mediterranean beach next to a super-model in a string bikini.   I wish.

**Okay, I might just have have lied.

“God does not play dice.”–Albert Einstein

“Quit telling god what to do.”–Niels Bohr

It’s complicated.  And this just about reaches the limit of my own understanding.

The whole point of Einstein’s comment is that he could not accept the random nature of the quantum world.  He could not accept that quanta of matter and energy, and all their itinerant properties, only exist as probabilities until we observe  them.  He felt that there must be hidden variables that gave them these properties whether anyone was watching or not.  “I’d like to think the moon is there whether I am looking or not,” he said.

He was wrong.  Well, I don’t know about the moon, as that invokes the infamous Schrödinger’s Cat problem and it’s obfuscation of the Copenhagen Interpretation.  But for those tiny little quantum bits of stuff, it seems as if he blew it.

It all boils down to two papers.  The first was a 1935 paper by Einstein, along with colleagues Nathan Rosen and Boris Podalsky that proposed a thought experiment to demonstrate that there are only two possible explanations for certain properties of quantum mechanics: either there are hidden variables governing the quantum world, or else, as Einstein called it “spooky action at a distance.”  This has become known as the EPR paradox.

The second was a 1964 paper by John S. Bell, proposing an equation and related experiment that could be used to determine which of the alternatives is correct.  This became known as Bell’s inequality.

The technology did not yet exist, though, to make the measurements required to determine the solution to Bell’s equation. That did not occur until Alain Aspect, et al, performed an experiment in 1981 that proved, finally, that Einstein was wrong: no hidden variables exist; it’s spooky action at a distance.  At least, that is,  until further notice.

A  fairly facile explanation of the concepts and history is available here (including a brief touching on their relationship to Schrödinger’s Cat) and some subsequent contrary opinions here.  Or for those who can’t (or prefer not to) read, see the video that follows.  Confused?  One of the greatest scientific minds of the 20th century, Richard Feynman, said that nobody understand quantum mechanics.  Boy, does that give me free rein to get crazy with conjecture #5: Quantum Solipsism.   There may actually be a universe where I finally write and post it.



  1. Ok, I get it. But why would you want to be wearing a string bikini when you are on the beach with the model? Are you that buff?!

    • You betcha. 😀 Actually, I would prefer we were both wearing nothing, but I try to keep this blog rated PG-13. (not always easy if you see my previous post)

  2. I am going to memorize this entire blog and when my particle physicist son- in-law comes for Thanksgiving Day, I’ll start reciting it and after that, I’ll just sit back and concentrate on his face and say”mmmmm” and “ooooooh” and “More pie?” I’ll be great!

  3. Mark, you know this stuff muuuuuuuch better than me: Am i correct to say inflation occurred after the BB? I have someone trying to tell me it occurred before, which is madness, right?

  4. that beach wasn’t an alternative universe – just a simple hallucination…

  5. Would you object to doing a post concerning the reality of time relative to different speeds? IE if I were to fly in a spacecraft at the speed of light for 5 years and return to earth, I would have aged 5 years while the earth had aged thousands. It’s a topic I don’t fully understand, but you may be able to tackle it. If you did, that’d be amazing! Thanks!

    • Quantum weirdness may be the only thing in science that is more counter-intuitive than special relativity. But I’m not really a physicist, I just play one in the bologsphere. 😀 I’ll think about it…it is kind of off topic of my quantum mechanical inspired conjectures.

  6. Maybe I can help you choose between Copenhagen and Many Worlds, I’ll give it a shot anyway.

    As I understand the Copenhagen Interpretation, it says that that reality is a system (ie. the observable universe from the Big Bang forward in time) whose state (ie. all discrete points of space and time within it) is completely described by a wavefunction. The only exception is when a measurement is made, at which point the state of that system collapses into an eigenstate of the observable measured (ie. “that photon of light went ot the left side of the double slit”).

    The Many Worlds interpretation, as I understand it, says that whenever a measurement is made, the eigenstate of observed measure (ie. “this photon of light was measured on the left side of the dual slit”) described by a state (ie. “an observation”) within a system (ie.”the observable universe” from the Big Bang forwards) which is described by a larger system (ie. “reality) described by the non-infinite sum of its potential eigenstates.

    So if I’m correct, these interpretations differ in that the Copenhagen Interpretation defines reality as equivalent to the observable universe, while the Many Worlds Interpretation defines reality as system containing the totally of possible subsections within it.

  7. Thus, answering the question “Is the observable universe all of reality, or is it possible that reality contains more than just the observable universe” would settle this debate.

    First, note that the observable universe is necessarily 4 dimensional by the definition of an observation used in the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principal. So, if we had proof of anything that exists in anything other than 4 dimensions, we could conclude the Copenhagen is incorrect as it assumes reality is observable universe.

    To do so, I recommend reading the following:

    In my opinion, that post proves the existence in reality of a non 4-dimensional entity, ie.any conscious entity. So, reality consists of a 0 dimensional field containing points, each of which contains the sum of eigenstates of the observable universe, the value ie. (ie. “Jereme Tirschmann”) of each is caused by the collapse of the wave function (ie. “consciousness”) to a point (ie. “the observable universe through all time”) caused by the process of wavefunction collapse, which is equivalent to the totality of its eigenstates (ie. “the observable universe”), The value of each is caused by the the process of wavefunction collapse (ie.”consciousness”)

    Actually I’m sorry, the above is a big mess and definitely wrong somewhere but I’ve been working on it for a few hours now and I’m too tired to sort it out. You can figure it out from here tho if you’d like:

    • It will take me a few hours to ponder, but I think we sort of agree! Well, maybe and maybe not. As previously stated, I remain in an appropriate for this blog state of superposition, half believing each of these possibilities. As Yogi said, “90% of the game is half mental.”

      • Jereme Tirschmann says:

        To a fish, the 100% of the universe is 100% a lake.

        Scientific inquiry begins with observations and proceeds through pattern observation and attempts to organize those laws in coherent ways called laws, and ends with organizing laws coherently to Theories. A widely accepted Theory of Everything would end the study of physics and confer legendary and historical status upon its creator.

        But all this begins with the assumption that all of reality is the observable universe. Or at least, if there is anything other than the observable universe we could never know anything about it so its fruitless to study.

        To a fish, 100% of reality is 100% of a lake. That is, until it dares to plunge bravely towards the surface, breaks through into the air and in that moment realizes the error in its previous reasoning.

      • But what if a fish turns out to be in a river? 😉

      • You’re most welcome! Thank you for helping me meditate further on this, thinking about these ideas is literally the most satisfying thing I’ve ever done.

        I accept the fish and lake analogy isn’t perfect and I’m sure could be stated better. I have only one request, try not to follow it literally but rather understand the underlying concept then go forward with your meditations, ie. “To a fish in a river, 100% of reality is 100% of the river. But his believe in this equivalence isn’t necessarily correct”, etc.

      • Actually, I’ve thought of that fish analogy before as well (or heard of it before?–can’t recall).

      • dimidium facti qui coepit habet

    • I was just thinking about this analogy stuff and I think I’ve come up with something amazing, I’m seriously busting this is so exciting to me! Ok follow along and let’s see where this goes…

    • Argument by analogy is considered a fallacy, because an argument by analogy cannot prove its conclusion, only illuminate its underlying concept. So, necessarily all analogies contain 3 components: The analogy, its underlying concept, and a value x (ie.”profoundness”)of how likely a reader of the analogy is to understand the underlying concept simply by hearing the analogy.

    • -100 < x analogy disproves underlying concept
      0 -> analogy neither increases nor decreases reader’s understanding of
      concept following reading
      100 -> analogy proves underlying concept

    • I’m really curious about how well this works so I’m going to try understanding a few yogisms understood as analogies, using my understanding of the underlying concept as he was trying to express it and the truth of that concept. If this concept works I suggest it as a fun future blog post given I’m sure you your knowledge of Yogisms and baseball is magnitudes greater than mine!

    • analogy -> “90% of the game is 50% mental”
      underlying concept -> player somehow given a choice to magically enhance his “baseball intelligence” or “athleticism” should choose the former.

      When I read that yogism my first reaction is to laugh, but almost right away I get that he’s trying to say “it’s more of a mental game than a physical game”. I’d say this is a good analogy.

    • An example from a sport I’m more familiar with:
      analogy -> “hockey is a game of inches”
      underlying concept -> Hockey games are often decided by very few goals. Goals are often decided by very small margins, like whether a play was offside, whether a shot misses the net, hits the post or goes in, etc. So in essence hockey isn’t a game of feet (ie. size of the rink, say 200 x 85 x 15″, but a game of inches (2 inches decides whether a shot results in a goal”

      Strength of analogy isn’t great, you have to understand a lot about hockey to get the underlying point.

      So actually I guess we could say the strength of an analogy isn’t determined intrinsically but rather by the readers initial familiarity with the underlying concept.

      The strength of an argument by analogy then depends on the degree of correctness (ie. necessary strength defined entirely within the analogy, approximation to tautological truth) of the underlying concept.

    • Oh dammmmmmmmmmmmn, think I just on something really good. Ok, try this:
      Analogy: “I think therefore I am”
      Underlying concept: “Some entity, let’s call it I, cannot deny its own existence, for in doing so it would prove its existence necessarily. Therefore, the only thing René Descartes can be sure about is that some concept I, exists necessarily. All else is in the field previously known as “reality” is uncertain to to René Descartes”

    • Jereme Tirschmann, at 9:07pm on Feb.10 is currently thinking, therefore some intentionally undefined underlying concept must also necessarily exists during this and only this exact period of thought.

      Jereme Tirschmann assumes that this underlying concept is equivalent to the Jereme Tirschmann that existed an hour ago when he was helping his little sister with homework, the Jereme Tirschmann that existed 2 months ago when he decided he’d like to apply to graduate school in philosopy, etc.’.Jereme Tirschmann hereby calls this concept his “mind”.

      Let’s assume this “mind” exists in a field consisting of a finite number of points with values correlating to length, width, height and t. (ie. “reality as understood by Isaac Newton). Assume the minimum amount of ‘space’ (ie. x, y, z) is a brain cell.

      So, Jereme’s mind must exist within a single brain cell. No brain cells exist in Jereme Tirschmann’s brain in 2014 that also existed in Jereme Tirschmann’s brain in 1981.

      Therefore, assuming Jereme Tirschmann = Jereme Tirschmann (ie. axiom of deductive logic), his mind does not exist in a 4 dimensional field of reality.

      Something, something (sorry I’m tired and my head hurts hehe), a field of reality necessarily 0 dimensional exists.

      “hey this box can be measured by l x w x h and was here 10 minutes ago and still exists now” -> field of reality necessarily 4 dimensional exists.

      Apply -> Fields of study which attempt to define reality, ie. physics, are provable necessarily.

      and and try to fit these together in a coherent puzzle.

      -> -> -> -> -> still waiting…

    • uggh I think all those arrows at the bottom of my last post got cut off somehow. Basically the idea was I’ve had some ideas lately, and I could probably millions of dollars by submitting them to a physics journal or whatever but this is too much fun and I don’t want to wait, so here they are world.

      I challenge you to figure out that all of the unsolved Millennium Problems are provably, necessarily, and trivially solvable with no previous knowledge in math or physics (just look stuff up on wiki). But its more fun to me to just post the ideas and see how long it takes someone else to figure that out. I’m still waiting!

      Mark Sackler, I challenge you to meditate on this, but not as a philosopher, scientist, any other thing. So instead of 50% Copenhagen and 50% Many Worlds, more like just 0%. Discard all assumptions. Be as open minded as possible.

      If you do all this, you will get there. I’m not sure where “there” is exactly but its probably something involving millions of dollars. That’s not really important tho, the bigger value is in its aid to the progress of humanity. That’s all the reward I ask for, I ask you to meditate hard on this and do your best to understand the ideas. In the end, if you agree with me, please help me spread them for the betterment of humanity.

      The good news is just by beginning your meditations, you’re already half way to finishing them!

  8. Jereme Tirschmann says:

    Remember this parable of the fish as you meditate on my previous post. vincit qui se vincit

    • Excellent contributions. Thank you!

      • “If the world was perfect, it wouldn’t be.”
        The most profound statement I have ever, or will ever, read.

      • Ok wait, I think I’ve got it all pieced together! Sorry for being away, I’ve literally been thinking about this stuff every day for weeks. Once we challenge the basic idea that science must only be concerned with the observable universe, the rest falls into place!

        It was the Yogi Berra quote that did it! “If the world was perfect, it wouldn’t”. But Yogi Berra is also imperfect, hence that impossibility only applies to “his” world (ie. the observable universe)

        Diagram to follow! Seriously, I just have an interest in philosophy and science and have obviously a very scattered mind too, then once I saw that Yogi quote it all fell into place lol. Diagrams and solutions to follow 🙂

  9. Jereme Tirshmann says:

    [spoiler alert: Physics = Classical Model + Quantum Electrodynamics + Special Relativity]

  10. Jereme Tirshmann says:

    Drats, it seems I’ve proved solipsism 😦

  11. When you start thinking about non-solipsism alternatives though I think it’s time to take a break 🙂

  12. Feynman is my hero. He was FUN and brilliant. He played bongs and laughed a lot. I like that in a physicist.

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