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Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen (EPR) and Bell Thought Experiments
How Should Superpositions be Interpreted? Part 1. (A) Literally (QM description is complete): One Claim: The properties of a quantum system in a superposed state are indeterminate (do not possess values). probabilities in QM are objective

(B) Non-literally (QM description is incomplete): One Claim: The properties of a quantum system are determinate (possess values) at all times, even when the system is in a superposed state. probabilities in QM are subjective

EPR pushes towards (B). Bell pushes back.

ASIDE: To get a handle on EPR and Bell, it helps just to consider the above two options.
However, as we shall see, the options are a bit more varied. First, there are other ways QM could be incomplete: We could claim that some of the properties of a quantum system possess values at all times, whereas others do not (modal interpretations); or we could even claim that the quantum description of properties and states is complete, but the description of how these states evolve (the dynamics) is incomplete and needs to be supplemented (GRW, Bohm). Second, there are also ways that we could claim that QM is complete, and that superpositions should be interpreted literally, other than claiming that quantum properties don’t possess values in superposed states (many worlds, many minds). We’ll try to look at all of these different options in the lectures to come.


5/2.spin orientations cancel spin-down 2 .One particular property used in both thought experiments: spin. spin = spacetime orientation property comes in discrete units of halves: 0. “Half-integer” spin objects have spinorientations: either up or down along spin-axis: spin-up intrinsic spin = like rotation about an axis (but for point particles) “Full-integer” spin objects (all macroscopic objects) . 1. 2.. 1/2.. 3/2. .

Suppose we get spin-up Very strange: nothing has been down to #2! What suddenly changed its spin property from indeterminate to determinate? Superposition collapses to first term #2 now suddenly (instantaneously!) has determinate spin-down Einstein: “spooky action at a distance” Conclusion: (a) Literal interpretation of superpositions QM is non-local Properties are always determinate. (iii) If spin orientation measurement on particle #1 yields spin-up. then |Ψ〉 ⎯⎯⎯→ |↑〉1|↓〉2 collapse Now measure spin-orientation of #1. Rosen 1935) Bohm version spinorientation detector source (spin 0) particle #2 #1 and #2 together in source Schrödinger evolution #1 spin-up #2 spin-down 50% − #1 spin-down #2 spin-up 50% Source set up to produce this particular superposition. Podolsky.EPR Thought Experiment spinorientation detector particle #1 (Einstein. call it |Ψ〉: Suppose we interpret superpositions literally |Ψ〉 = √|spin-up〉1|spin-down〉2 − √|spin-down〉1|spin-up〉2 = √|↑〉1|↓〉2 − √|↓〉1|↑〉2 Recall: (i) |Ψ〉 is an entangled 2-particle state. spinorientations of #1 & #2 are both indeterminate (ii) Pr(particle #1 has spin-up) = |〈spin-up1. spin-down2|Ψ〉|2 = |√|2 = . OR (b) QM is incomplete EPR’s conclusion 3 . Before measurement. QM description is just incomplete.

al 1982) 4 . Can we compare QM to such a Hidden Variables Theory? Answer: Yes! V Bell’s Thought Experiment EPR: Concerned with spin along one axis Bell: Concerned with spin along three axes (J. S.If QM is incomplete. then it is overlooking something. L) L R particle #1 D1 spin 0 source particle #2 D2 Set-Up: Devices set so they don’t both measure spin along same axis Question Posed: Ex: If D1 set to measure spin along V then D2 set to measure spin along L or R What is probability that spin orientation (up or down) is different for #1 and #2? Two ways to calculate this: Method 1 (Literal QM): Assume properties are indeterminate before measurement Bell’s Result: Method 2 (Hidden Variables): (i) Assume properties are always determinate. (ii) Assume measurement outcomes do not depend non-locally on each other. R. Bell 1965) 120° 120° 120° devices that can measure spin along 1 of 3 axes (V. Perhaps a “Hidden Variables” description of quantum states and properties is possible in which properties are always determinate (possess values) at all times. et. Methods make different predictions! Later Result: Literal QM prediction is confirmed by actual experiment (Aspect.

spin-up on z = spin-up on z' Prob = cos2(θ/2) + spin-down on z' Prob = sin2(θ/2) θ = 120° for Bell θ = angle between axes z and z' Example: Pr(#2 up on V.see below pg. other down) =  Again: Treat spin properties as indeterminate (no definite values) until measurement. 10): In general. given #2 up on R) =  Because if #1 is measured to be down on R. #2 must be up on R Probability that spin In general. can check that: orientation is different for #1 and #2 (i. different axes prob(#2 up on V. given #1 down on R) = prob(#2 up on V. 5 . one up. given #2 up on R) = cos2(120°/2) =  single particle. different axes Now apply to two entangled particles.Literal QM Prediction #1 and #2 together in source 3 possible spin axes Initial entangled state can be represented by one of three superpositions 1 spin-up on V Schrödinger evolution 2 spin-down on V Prob =  − − − 1 spin-down on V 2 spin-up on V Prob =  No determinate spin-orientation values! OR 1 spin-up on R 2 spin-down on R Prob =  1 spin-down on R 2 spin-up on R Prob =  OR 1 spin-up on L 2 spin-down on L Prob =  1 spin-down on L 2 spin-up on L Prob =  How to relate spin axes (technical result .e..

this holds for spin measurements along all other pairs of axes as well. 2√2 |2 + |− |2 = 1/4 6 . The initial state is an EPR state |Ψ〉 that anti-correlates the spin-orientations of the particles along the same spin axis. L: √|↑〉1|↓〉2 − √|↓〉1|↑〉2 or √| 〉1|〉2 − √|〉1|〉2 or Spin states along different axes are related via (see pg.ASIDE: Here’s a slightly more formal derivation of the literal QM prediction. we must first expand |Ψ〉 in eigenvector bases of V and L. L in state |Ψ〉) = |− By rotational symmetry. 10 for proof): |↑〉 = cos(θ/2)|↑'〉 + sin(θ/2)|↓'〉 |↓〉 = sin(θ/2)|↑'〉 − cos(θ/2)|↓'〉 examples: √|〉1|〉2 − √|〉1|〉2 θ = angle between ↑ and ↑' Recall: One of the relations for the eigenvectors of Albert’s Color and Hardness |↑〉 = cos(120°/2)|〉 + sin(120°/2)|〉 = 1/2|〉 + √3/2|〉 |↑〉 = cos(90°/2)|→〉 + sin(90°/2)|←〉 = 1/√2|→〉 + 1/√2|←〉 NOW: Suppose the initial state is |Ψ〉 = √|↑〉1|↓〉2 − √|↓〉1|↑〉2 and we want to measure particle 1’s spin along V and particle 2’s spin along L. To apply the Born Rule. but we need to expand it’s particle 2-part in terms of L states: |↓〉2 = √3/2|〉2 − 1/2|〉2 |↑〉2 = 1/2|〉2 + √3/2|〉2 SO: |Ψ〉 = 1/√2|↑〉1{√3/2|〉2 − 1/2|〉2} − 1/√2|↓〉1{1/2|〉2 + √3/2|〉2} = √3 2√2 |↑〉1|〉2 − 1 2√2 |↑〉1|〉2 − 1 2√2 |↓〉1|〉2 − √3 2√2 |↓〉1|〉2 1 1 2√2 Now we can apply the Born Rule: Pr(spin-orientations of #1 and #2 differ along V. R. It’s already in an eigenvector basis of V. There are 3 ways to represent it in terms of axes V.

particles in state II have opposite spins. probability that spins are opposite upon spin measurment in state II is 1/3.) Probability that SO: spin orientation is different for #1 and #2 Again: Treat spin properties as ≥ 1/3 always determinate and assume measurement outcomes do not affect each other non-locally. 7 . So. Note: Locality is assumed in listing these possibilities: We assume that if #1 is V+ and #2 is L−.Hidden Variables Prediction no entangled states . and indeterminate properties up along R-axis 8 Possible States (particles always have definite values of spin): (V+L+R+)1 (V−L−R−)2 I particle #1 down along R-axis IV particle #2 (V+L+R-)1 (V−L−R+)2 II (V−L−R−)1 (V+L+R+)2 III (V−L−R+)1 (V+L+R−)2 (V-L+R+)1 (V+L−R−)2 V (V+L-R−)1 (V−L+R+)2 VI (V+L−R+)1 (V−L+R−)2 VII (V-L+R−)1 (V+L−R+)2 VIII 2-particle system has 8 possible states D1 and D2 can be set in 6 possible ways Probabilty that spin orientations are different must be calculated by looking at each state in each of the 6 possible settings of D1 and D2: Device Settings States ← 8 possible states → D1 V 6 possible device settings D2 L R V R V L I +− +− +− +− +− +− 1 II +− ++ +− ++ −− −− 1/3 III −+ −+ −+ −+ −+ −+ 1 IV −+ −− −+ −− ++ ++ 1/3 V −− −− ++ +− ++ +− 1/3 VI ++ ++ −− −+ −− −+ 1/3 VII ++ +− −− −− +− ++ 1/3 VIII −− −+ ++ ++ −+ −− 1/3 V L L R R Prob different spin orientation: Example: in 2 out of 6 (or 1 out of 3) possible measurements. (Measuring #1 as V+ will not affect #2’s value. then a measurement of the system will produce these values.

Do many trials. Result is always Literal QM prediction. Current Options: Let: Value Definiteness (VD) = The properties of a quantum system are determinate (possess values) at all times. Question: Is non-locality really so “spooky”? Bell says: NO! Conflicts with experiment! 8 . Hidden Variables: At the least. the spin orientations of particles #1 and #2 will differ. even when the system is in a superposed state.Recap: spin orientations Prob are different = 1/4 ≥ 1/3 Literal QM prediction Hidden Variables prediction Literal QM: In 1 out of 4 trials. the spin orientations of particles #1 and #2 will differ. How about: (2) Non-local Hidden Variables based on VD. on average. in 1 out of 3 trials. SO: EPR: (QM is incomplete) OR (QM is non-local) Options: (1) Local Hidden Variables based on VD. on average.

If Particle #1 does have spin-down. then Particle #2 will have spin-down. regardless of whether or not a measurement was performed on Particle #1! Upshot: Non-locality of outcome dependence can’t be used to send signals! Example: If we measure Particle #2 here to have spin-down. On the other hand. quantum cyrptography) that we’ll get back to later on. If Particle #1 does have spin-up. then we know Particle #1 way over there has spin-up. it doesn’t violate a prohibition on fasterthan-light signalling that can be associated with Special Relativity. (2) Suppose a spin measurement is done on Particle #1 and then another is done on Particle #2. then |A〉 collapse ⎯⎯⎯→|spin-up〉1|spin-down〉2 so the outcome of a spin measurement on Particle #2 will be spin-down. quantum teleportation. there is still a bit of spookiness about it. Similarly. then Particle #2 will have spin-up. if the outcome of a spin measurement on Particle #1 is spin-down. But we don’t know if Particle #1 was already found to have spin-up: We don’t know if Particle #2’s having spin-down here is a consequence of someone way over there measuring Particle #1 to have spin-up. In particular. then the outcome of a spin measurement on Particle #2 will be spin-up. Then Pr(particle #2 has spin-up) =  and Pr(particle #2 has spin-down) = . SO: The outcome of a measurement on Particle #2 is equally likely to be spin-up or spindown.Why Non-Locality Isn’t All That Spooky: Recall: EPR state is represented by |A〉 = √|spin-up〉1|spin-down〉2 − √|spin-down〉1|spin-up〉2 If the outcome of a spin measurement on Particle #1 is spin-up. This spookiness can be exploited in interesting ways (quantum computation. SO: The outcome of a measurement on Particle #2 depends non-locally on the outcome of a measurement on Particle #1 (and vice-versa). 9 . The particles can be very far away from each other when the measurements are performed. SO: Non-locality isn’t all that spooky. Then Pr(particle #1 has spin-up) =  and Pr(particle #1 has spin-down) = . BUT: The outcome of a measurement on Particle #2 does not depend on whether or not a measurement was performed on Particle #1! Check: (1) Suppose a spin measurement is done on Particle #2.

Sz = Sz' cosθ 3. For electrons (and other “spin-” particles). Albert calls two of them Hardness and Color. one for each axis/direction in 3-space. there can be an infinite number of such properties. It turns out that these are spin properties along axes that are at 90° to each other. 3-dim physical space (z'-axis is in xz-plane inclined at angle θ from z-axis) z right angle! z' Hardness axis (in z-axis direction): call it Sz New spin axis (in z'-axis direction): call it Sz’ θ y x Color axis (in x-axis direction): call it Sx Now: What’s the relation between Sz’. this property has only two values: spin-up-along-the-axis. Sz'2 = Sz2 + Sx2 2. and to another spin axis. spin-up on z = spin-up on z' Prob = cos2(θ/2) + spin-down on z' Prob = sin2(θ/2) θ = angle between axes z and z' First recall: We’re talking about a particular property: Spin-along-an-axis. Sx = Sz' sinθ combine to get: Sz' = Sx sinθ + Sz cosθ 10 . Sz.ASIDE Let’s derive the technical result we used to make QM predictions for the Bell thought experiment: How to relate spin axes (technical result): In general. Since the axis can point in any direction in 3-dim physical space. Here’s one way to represent their relation to each other. spin-down-along-the-axis. and Sx? We have: 1.

then the probability that a measurement of spin along the z' axis yields the value spin-up is: Pr(value of Spin-along-z'-axis is up in state|↑〉) = |cos(θ/2)|2 = cos2(θ/2) 11 . we get the Color operator!) sinθ −cosθ The eigenvectors of Sz’ then turn out to be: cos(θ/2) sin(θ/2) |↓'〉 = sin(θ/2) −cos(θ/2) Explicitly. we get the Color eigenvectors!) |↑'〉 = SO: The relations between the eigenvectors of Sz (Hardness) and those of Sz’ are: |↑〉 = cos(θ/2)|↑'〉 + sin(θ/2)|↓'〉 |↓〉 = sin(θ/2)|↑'〉 − cos(θ/2)|↓'〉 |↑'〉 = cos(θ/2)|↑〉 + sin(θ/2)|↓〉 |↓'〉 = sin(θ/2)|↑〉 − cos(θ/2)|↓〉 And this produces the result we wanted to prove (in particular.In terms of matrices. recall: Sx = 0 1 1 0 Sz = 1 0 0 −1 eigenvectors of Sz (Hardness): |hard〉 = 1 0 |soft〉 = 0 1 Color operator Hardness operator call it “up-alongz-axis”: |↑〉 call it “downalong-z-axis”: |↓〉 So: Sz' = Sx sinθ + Sz cosθ = cosθ sinθ The general form of the operator for spin along an axis z' inclined at θ from the z-axis. To check. the result we used is given by the first equality). if you’re a hard electron (an electron with spin-up-along-z-axis) in state |↑〉. Sz’|↑'〉 = |↑'〉. For instance. in the Sz eigenvector basis. recall the trigonometric “half-angle” formulas: sinθ = 2sin(θ/2)cos(θ/2) cosθ = cos2(θ/2) − sin2(θ/2) (Note: when θ = 90°. (Note: when θ = 90°. and Sz’|↓'〉 = −|↓'〉.