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Do We Really Understand Quantum Mechanics Strange Correlations

Do We Really Understand Quantum Mechanics Strange Correlations

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One can find in the literature various attitudes concerning
the exact relation between quantum mechanics and locality.
Some authors consider that the nonlocal character of quan-
tum mechanics is a well-known fact, while for others quan-
tum nonlocality is an artifact created by the introduction into
quantum mechanics of notions which are foreign to it ͑typi-
cally the EPR elements of reality͒. Lively discussions to de-
cide whether or not quantum mechanics in itself is inherently
nonlocal have taken place and are still active ͑Refs. 94–96͒;
see also Refs. 21, 97, and 98. Delicate problems of logic are
involved and we will not discuss the question in more detail
here.

What is easier to grasp for the majority of physicists is the
notion of ‘‘contrafactuality’’ ͑Ref. 95͒. A counterfactual rea-
soning consists in introducing the results of possible experi-
ments that can be envisaged for the future as well-defined
quantities, and valid mathematical functions to use in equa-
tions, even if they are still unknown—in algebra one writes
unknown quantities in equations all the time. This is very
natural: As remarked by d’Espagnat ͑Refs. 99 and 100͒ and
by Griffiths ͑Ref. 101͒, ‘‘counterfactuals seem a necessary
part of any realistic version of quantum theory in which
properties of microscopic systems are not created by the
measurements.’’ One can also see the EPR reasoning as a
justification of the existence of counterfactuals. But it also
remains true that, in practice, it is never possible to realize
more than one of these experiments: For a given pair, one
has to choose a single orientation of the analyzers, so that all
other orientations will remain forever in the domain of
speculation. For instance, in the reasoning of Sec. IVA2, at
least some of the numbers A, AЈ, B, and BЈ are counterfac-
tuals, and we saw that using them led us to a contradiction
with quantum mechanics through the Bell inequalities. One
could conclude that contrafactuality should be put into ques-
tion in quantum mechanics; alternatively, one could maintain
counterfactual reasoning, but then the price to pay is the
explicit appearance of nonlocality. We have already quoted a
sentence by Peres ͑Ref. 53͒ which wonderfully summarizes
the situation as seen within orthodoxy: ‘‘unperformed ex-
periments have no results;’’ as Bell once regretfully re-
marked ͑Ref. 93͒: ‘‘It is a great inconvenience that the real
world is given to us once only!’’
But, after all, one can also accept contrafactuality as well
as explicit nonlocality together, and obtain a perfectly con-
sistent point of view; it would be a real misunderstanding to
consider the Bell theorem as an impossibility theorem, either
for contrafactuality, or for hidden variables. In other words,
and despite the fact that the idea is still often expressed, it is
not true that the Bell theorem is a new sort of Von Neumann
theorem. The reason is simple: Why require that theories
with contrafactuality/additional variables should be explicitly
local at all stages, while it is not required from standard
quantum mechanics? Indeed, neither the wave packet reduc-
tion postulate, nor the calculation of correlation of experi-
mental results in the correlation point of view ͑Sec. VIA͒,
nor again the expression of the state vector itself, correspond
to mathematically local calculations. In other words, even if
one can discuss whether or not quantum mechanics is local

674

674

Am. J. Phys., Vol. 69, No. 6, June 2001

F. Laloe¨

or not at a fundamental level, it is perfectly clear that its
formalism is not; it would therefore be just absurd to request
a local formalism from a nonorthodox theory—especially
when the theory in question is built in order to reproduce all
results of quantum mechanics! As an illustration of this
point, as seen from theories with additional variables, we
quote Goldstein ͑Ref. 16͒: ‘‘in recent years it has been com-
mon to find physicists... failing to appreciate that what Bell
demonstrated with his theorem was not the impossibility of
Bohmian mechanics, but rather a more radical implication—
namely non-locality—that is intrinsic to quantum theory it-
self.’’

C. ‘‘All-or-nothing coherent states;’’ decoherence

In this section, we first introduce many particle quantum
states which have particularly remarkable correlation proper-
ties; then we discuss more precisely a phenomenon that we
have already introduced above, decoherence, which tends to
reduce their lifetime very efficiently, especially if the number
of correlated particles is large.

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