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EPR paradox

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The Einstein–Podolsky–Rosen paradox or

EPR paradox[1] of 1935 is a thought
experiment in quantum mechanics with
which Albert Einstein and his colleagues
Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen (EPR)
claimed to demonstrate that the wave
function does not provide a complete
description of physical reality, and hence
that the Copenhagen interpretation is
unsatisfactory; resolutions of the paradox
have important implications for the
interpretation of quantum mechanics.

Albert Einstein

The essence of the paradox is that

particles can interact in such a way that it
is possible to measure both their position
and their momentum more accurately than
Heisenberg's uncertainty principle allows,
unless measuring one particle
instantaneously affects the other to
prevent this accuracy, which would involve
information being transmitted faster than
light as forbidden by the theory of relativity
("spooky action at a distance"). This
consequence had not previously been
noticed and seemed unreasonable at the
time; the phenomenon involved is now
known as quantum entanglement.

While EPR felt that the paradox showed

that quantum theory was incomplete and
should be extended with hidden variables,
the usual modern resolution is to say that
due to the common preparation of the two
particles (for example the creation of an
electron-positron pair from a photon) the
property we want to measure has a well
defined meaning only when analyzed for
the whole system while the same property
for the parts individually remains
undefined. Therefore, if similar
measurements are being performed on the
two entangled subsystems, there will
always be a correlation between the
outcomes resulting in a well defined global
outcome i.e. for both subsystems
together. However, the outcomes for each
subsystem separately at each repetition of
the experiment will not be well defined or
predictable. This correlation does not
imply any action of the measurement of
one particle on the measurement of the
other, therefore it does not imply any form
of action at a distance. This modern
resolution eliminates the need for hidden
variables, action at a distance or other
structures introduced over time in order to
explain the phenomenon.

A preference for the latter resolution is

supported by experiments suggested by
Bell's theorem of 1964, which exclude
some classes of hidden variable theory.

According to quantum mechanics, under

some conditions, a pair of quantum
systems may be described by a single
wave function, which encodes the
probabilities of the outcomes of
experiments that may be performed on the
two systems, whether jointly or
individually. At the time the EPR article
discussed below was written, it was
known from experiments that the outcome
of an experiment sometimes cannot be
uniquely predicted. An example of such
indeterminacy can be seen when a beam
of light is incident on a half-silvered mirror.
One half of the beam will reflect, and the
other will pass. If the intensity of the beam
is reduced until only one photon is in
transit at any time, whether that photon
will reflect or transmit cannot be predicted
quantum mechanically.

The routine explanation of this effect was,

at that time, provided by Heisenberg's
uncertainty principle. Physical quantities
come in pairs called conjugate quantities.
Examples of such conjugate pairs are
(position, momentum), (time, energy), and
(angular position, angular momentum).
When one quantity was measured, and
became determined, the conjugated
quantity became indeterminate.
Heisenberg explained this uncertainty as
due to the quantization of the disturbance
from measurement.
The EPR paper, written in 1935, was
intended to illustrate that this explanation
is inadequate. It considered two entangled
particles, referred to as A and B, and
pointed out that measuring a quantity of a
particle A will cause the conjugated
quantity of particle B to become
undetermined, even if there was no
contact, no classical disturbance. The
basic idea was that the quantum states of
two particles in a system cannot always
be decomposed from the joint state of the
two, as is the case for the Bell state,
Heisenberg's principle was an attempt to
provide a classical explanation of a
quantum effect sometimes called non-
locality. According to EPR there were two
possible explanations. Either there was
some interaction between the particles
(even though they were separated) or the
information about the outcome of all
possible measurements was already
present in both particles.

The EPR authors preferred the second

explanation according to which that
information was encoded in some 'hidden
parameters'. The first explanation of an
effect propagating instantly across a
distance is in conflict with the theory of
relativity. They then concluded that
quantum mechanics was incomplete since
its formalism does not permit hidden

Violations of the conclusions of Bell's

theorem are generally understood to have
demonstrated that the hypotheses of Bell's
theorem, also assumed by Einstein,
Podolsky and Rosen, do not apply in our
world.[2] Most physicists who have
examined the issue concur that
experiments, such as those of Alain
Aspect and his group, have confirmed that
physical probabilities, as predicted by
quantum theory, do exhibit the phenomena
of Bell-inequality violations that are
considered to invalidate EPR's preferred
"local hidden-variables" type of
explanation for the correlations to which
EPR first drew attention.[3][4]

History of EPR developments

The article that first brought forth these
matters, "Can Quantum-Mechanical
Description of Physical Reality Be
Considered Complete?" was published in
1935.[1] The paper prompted a response
by Bohr, which he published in the same
journal, in the same year, using the same
title.[5] There followed a debate between
Bohr and Einstein about the fundamental
nature of reality. Einstein had been
skeptical of the Heisenberg uncertainty
principle and the role of chance in
quantum theory. But the crux of this
debate was not about chance, but
something even deeper: Is there one
objective physical reality, which every
observer sees from his own vantage?
(Einstein's view) Or does the observer co-
create physical reality by the questions he
poses with experiments? (Bohr's view)

Einstein struggled to the end of his life for

a theory that could better comply with his
idea of causality, protesting against the
view that there exists no objective physical
reality other than that which is revealed
through measurement interpreted in terms
of quantum mechanical formalism.
However, since Einstein's death,
experiments analogous to the one
described in the EPR paper have been
carried out, starting in 1976 by French
scientists Lamehi-Rachti and Mittig[6] at
the Saclay Nuclear Research Centre.
These experiments appear to show that
the local realism idea is false,[7] vindicating

Quantum mechanics and its

Since the early twentieth century, quantum
theory has proved to be successful in
describing accurately the physical reality
of the mesoscopic and microscopic world,
in multiple reproducible physics

Quantum mechanics was developed with

the aim of describing atoms and
explaining the observed spectral lines in a
measurement apparatus. Although
disputed especially in the early twentieth
century, it has yet to be seriously
challenged. Philosophical interpretations
of quantum phenomena, however, are
another matter: the question of how to
interpret the mathematical formulation of
quantum mechanics has given rise to a
variety of different answers from people of
different philosophical persuasions (see
Interpretations of quantum mechanics).

Quantum theory and quantum mechanics

do not provide single measurement
outcomes in a deterministic way.
According to the understanding of
quantum mechanics known as the
Copenhagen interpretation, measurement
causes an instantaneous collapse of the
wave function describing the quantum
system into an eigenstate of the
observable that was measured. Einstein
characterized this imagined collapse in the
1927 Solvay Conference. He presented a
thought experiment in which electrons are
introduced through a small hole in a
sphere whose inner surface serves as a
detection screen. The electrons will
contact the spherical detection screen in a
widely dispersed manner. Those electrons,
however, are all individually described by
wave fronts that expand in all directions
from the point of entry. A wave as it is
understood in everyday life would paint a
large area of the detection screen, but the
electrons would be found to impact the
screen at single points and would
eventually form a pattern in keeping with
the probabilities described by their
identical wave functions. Einstein asks
what makes each electron's wave front
"collapse" at its respective location. Why
do the electrons appear as single bright
scintillations rather than as dim washes of
energy across the surface? Why does any
single electron appear at one point rather
than some alternative point? The behavior
of the electrons gives the impression of
some signal having been sent to all
possible points of contact that would have
nullified all but one of them, or, in other
words, would have preferentially selected
a single point to the exclusion of all

Einstein's opposition
Einstein was the most prominent
opponent of the Copenhagen
interpretation. In his view, quantum
mechanics was incomplete. Commenting
on this, other writers (such as John von
Neumann[9] and David Bohm[10])
hypothesized that consequently there
would have to be 'hidden' variables
responsible for random measurement
results, something which was not
expressly claimed in the original paper.
The 1935 EPR paper[1] condensed the
philosophical discussion into a physical
argument. The authors claim that given a
specific experiment, in which the outcome
of a measurement is known before the
measurement takes place, there must
exist something in the real world, an
"element of reality", that determines the
measurement outcome. They postulate
that these elements of reality are local, in
the sense that each belongs to a certain
point in spacetime. Each element may only
be influenced by events which are located
in the backward light cone of its point in
spacetime (i.e., the past). These claims
are founded on assumptions about nature
that constitute what is now known as local

Though the EPR paper has often been

taken as an exact expression of Einstein's
views, it was primarily authored by
Podolsky, based on discussions at the
Institute for Advanced Study with Einstein
and Rosen. Einstein later expressed to
Erwin Schrödinger that, "it did not come
out as well as I had originally wanted;
rather, the essential thing was, so to speak,
smothered by the formalism."[11] In 1936,
Einstein presented an individual account
of his local realist ideas.[12]
Description of the paradox
The original EPR paradox challenges the
prediction of quantum mechanics that it is
impossible to know both the position and
the momentum of a quantum particle. This
challenge can be extended to other pairs
of physical properties.

EPR paper

The original paper purports to describe

what must happen to "two systems I and
II, which we permit to interact ...", and, after
some time, "we suppose that there is no
longer any interaction between the two
parts." As explained by Manjit Kumar
(2009), the EPR description involves "two
particles, A and B, [which] interact briefly
and then move off in opposite
directions."[13] According to Heisenberg's
uncertainty principle, it is impossible to
measure both the momentum and the
position of particle B exactly. However, it is
possible to measure the exact position of
particle A. By calculation, therefore, with
the exact position of particle A known, the
exact position of particle B can be known.
Alternatively, the exact momentum of
particle A can be measured, so the exact
momentum of particle B can be worked
out. Kumar writes: "EPR argued that they
had proved that ... [particle] B can have
simultaneously exact values of position
and momentum. ... Particle B has a
position that is real and a momentum that
is real."

EPR appeared to have contrived a

means to establish the exact
values of either the momentum or
the position of B due to
measurements made on particle
A, without the slightest possibility
of particle B being physically
EPR tried to set up a paradox to question
the range of true application of Quantum
Mechanics: Quantum theory predicts that
both values cannot be known for a
particle, and yet the EPR thought
experiment purports to show that they
must all have determinate values. The EPR
paper says: "We are thus forced to
conclude that the quantum-mechanical
description of physical reality given by
wave functions is not complete."[13]

The EPR paper ends by saying:

While we have thus shown that
the wave function does not
provide a complete description of
the physical reality, we left open
the question of whether or not
such a description exists. We
believe, however, that such a
theory is possible.

Measurements on an
entangled state

We have a source that emits electron–

positron pairs, with the electron sent to
destination A, where there is an observer
named Alice, and the positron sent to
destination B, where there is an observer
named Bob. According to quantum
mechanics, we can arrange our source so
that each emitted pair occupies a
quantum state called a spin singlet. The
particles are thus said to be entangled.
This can be viewed as a quantum
superposition of two states, which we call
state I and state II. In state I, the electron
has spin pointing upward along the z-axis
(+z) and the positron has spin pointing
downward along the z-axis (−z). In state II,
the electron has spin −z and the positron
has spin +z. Because it is in a
superposition of states it is impossible
without measuring to know the definite
state of spin of either particle in the spin

The EPR thought experiment, performed with electron–

positron pairs. A source (center) sends particles
toward two observers, electrons to Alice (left) and
positrons to Bob (right), who can perform spin

Alice now measures the spin along the z-

axis. She can obtain one of two possible
outcomes: +z or −z. Suppose she gets +z.
According to the Copenhagen
interpretation of quantum mechanics, the
quantum state of the system collapses
into state I. The quantum state determines
the probable outcomes of any
measurement performed on the system. In
this case, if Bob subsequently measures
spin along the z-axis, there is 100%
probability that he will obtain −z. Similarly,
if Alice gets −z, Bob will get +z.

There is, of course, nothing special about

choosing the z-axis: according to quantum
mechanics the spin singlet state may
equally well be expressed as a
superposition of spin states pointing in the
x direction.[15]:318 Suppose that Alice and
Bob had decided to measure spin along
the x-axis. We'll call these states Ia and IIa.
In state Ia, Alice's electron has spin +x and
Bob's positron has spin −x. In state IIa,
Alice's electron has spin −x and Bob's
positron has spin +x. Therefore, if Alice
measures +x, the system 'collapses' into
state Ia, and Bob will get −x. If Alice
measures −x, the system collapses into
state IIa, and Bob will get +x.

Whatever axis their spins are measured

along, they are always found to be
opposite. This can only be explained if the
particles are linked in some way. Either
they were created with a definite
(opposite) spin about every axis—a
"hidden variable" argument—or they are
linked so that one electron "feels" which
axis the other is having its spin measured
along, and becomes its opposite about
that one axis—an "entanglement"
argument. Moreover, if the two particles
have their spins measured about different
axes, once the electron's spin has been
measured about the x-axis (and the
positron's spin about the x-axis deduced),
the positron's spin about the z-axis will no
longer be certain, as if (a) it knows that the
measurement has taken place, or (b) it has
a definite spin already, about a second axis
—a hidden variable. However, it turns out
that the predictions of Quantum
Mechanics, which have been confirmed by
experiment, cannot be explained by any
local hidden variable theory. This is
demonstrated in Bell's theorem.[16]

In quantum mechanics, the x-spin and z-

spin are "incompatible observables",
meaning the Heisenberg uncertainty
principle applies to alternating
measurements of them: a quantum state
cannot possess a definite value for both of
these variables. Suppose Alice measures
the z-spin and obtains +z, so that the
quantum state collapses into state I. Now,
instead of measuring the z-spin as well,
Bob measures the x-spin. According to
quantum mechanics, when the system is
in state I, Bob's x-spin measurement will
have a 50% probability of producing +x and
a 50% probability of -x. It is impossible to
predict which outcome will appear until
Bob actually performs the measurement.

Here is the crux of the matter:

You might imagine that, when Bob

measures the x-spin of his positron, he
would get an answer with absolute
certainty, since prior to this he hasn't
disturbed his particle at all. But it turns out
that Bob's positron has a 50% probability
of producing +x and a 50% probability of
−x, meaning the outcome is not certain.
It's as if Bob's positron "knows" that Alice
has measured the z-spin of her electron,
and hence his positron's own z-spin must
also be set, but its x-spin remains

Put another way, how does Bob's positron

know which way to point if Alice decides
(based on information unavailable to Bob)
to measure x (i.e., to be the opposite of
Alice's electron's spin about the x-axis) and
also how to point if Alice measures z,
since it is only supposed to know one
thing at a time? The Copenhagen
interpretation rules that say the wave
function "collapses" at the time of
measurement, so there must be action at a
distance (entanglement) or the positron
must know more than it's supposed to
know (hidden variables).

Here is the paradox summed up:

It is one thing to say that physical

measurement of the first particle's
momentum affects uncertainty in its own
position, but to say that measuring the first
particle's momentum affects the
uncertainty in the position of the other is
another thing altogether. Einstein,
Podolsky and Rosen asked how can the
second particle "know" to have precisely
defined momentum but uncertain
position? Since this implies that one
particle is communicating with the other
instantaneously across space, i.e., faster
than light, this is the "paradox".

Incidentally, Bell used spin as his example,

but many types of physical quantities—
referred to as "observables" in quantum
mechanics—can be used. The EPR paper
used momentum for the observable.
Experimental realisations of the EPR
scenario often use photon polarization,
because polarized photons are easy to
prepare and measure.

Locality in the EPR experiment

The principle of locality states that

physical processes occurring at one place
should have no immediate effect on the
elements of reality at another location. At
first sight, this appears to be a reasonable
assumption to make, as it seems to be a
consequence of special relativity, which
states that information can never be
transmitted faster than the speed of light
without violating causality. It is generally
believed that any theory which violates
causality would also be internally
inconsistent, and thus

It turns out that the usual rules for

combining quantum mechanical and
classical descriptions violate the principle
of locality without violating
causality.[14]:427–428[17] Causality is
preserved because there is no way for
Alice to transmit messages (i.e.,
information) to Bob by manipulating her
measurement axis. Whichever axis she
uses, she has a 50% probability of
obtaining "+" and 50% probability of
obtaining "−", completely at random;
according to quantum mechanics, it is
fundamentally impossible for her to
influence what result she gets.
Furthermore, Bob is only able to perform
his measurement once: there is a
fundamental property of quantum
mechanics, known as the "no cloning
theorem", which makes it impossible for
him to make a million copies of the
electron he receives, perform a spin
measurement on each, and look at the
statistical distribution of the results.
Therefore, in the one measurement he is
allowed to make, there is a 50% probability
of getting "+" and 50% of getting "−",
regardless of whether or not his axis is
aligned with Alice's.

However, the principle of locality appeals

powerfully to physical intuition, and
Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen were
unwilling to abandon it. Einstein derided
the quantum mechanical predictions as
"spooky action at a distance". The
conclusion they drew was that quantum
mechanics is not a complete theory.[18]

In recent years, however, doubt has been

cast on EPR's conclusion due to
developments in understanding locality
and especially quantum decoherence. The
word locality has several different
meanings in physics. For example, in
quantum field theory "locality" means that
quantum fields at different points of space
do not interact with one another. However,
quantum field theories that are "local" in
this sense appear to violate the principle of
locality as defined by EPR, but they
nevertheless do not violate locality in a
more general sense. Wavefunction
collapse can be viewed as an
epiphenomenon of quantum decoherence,
which in turn is nothing more than an
effect of the underlying local time
evolution of the wavefunction of a system
and all of its environment. Since the
underlying behaviour doesn't violate local
causality, it follows that neither does the
additional effect of wavefunction collapse,
whether real or apparent. Therefore, as
outlined in the example above, neither the
EPR experiment nor any quantum
experiment demonstrates that faster-than-
light signaling is possible.

Resolving the paradox

Hidden variables

There are several ways to resolve the EPR

paradox. The one suggested by EPR is that
quantum mechanics, despite its success
in a wide variety of experimental
scenarios, is actually an incomplete
theory. In other words, there is some yet
undiscovered theory of nature to which
quantum mechanics acts as a kind of
statistical approximation (albeit an
exceedingly successful one). Unlike
quantum mechanics, the more complete
theory contains variables corresponding to
all the "elements of reality". There must be
some unknown mechanism acting on
these variables to give rise to the observed
effects of "non-commuting quantum
observables", i.e. the Heisenberg
uncertainty principle. Such a theory is
called a hidden variable

To illustrate this idea, we can formulate a

very simple hidden variable theory for the
above thought experiment. One supposes
that the quantum spin-singlet states
emitted by the source are actually
approximate descriptions for "true"
physical states possessing definite values
for the z-spin and x-spin. In these "true"
states, the positron going to Bob always
has spin values opposite to the electron
going to Alice, but the values are otherwise
completely random. For example, the first
pair emitted by the source might be "(+z,
−x) to Alice and (−z, +x) to Bob", the next
pair "(−z, −x) to Alice and (+z, +x) to Bob",
and so forth. Therefore, if Bob's
measurement axis is aligned with Alice's,
he will necessarily get the opposite of
whatever Alice gets; otherwise, he will get
"+" and "−" with equal probability.[20]:239–240

Assuming we restrict our measurements

to the z- and x-axes, such a hidden variable
theory is experimentally indistinguishable
from quantum mechanics. In reality, there
may be an infinite number of axes along
which Alice and Bob can perform their
measurements, so there would have to be
an infinite number of independent hidden
variables. However, this is not a serious
problem; we have formulated a very
simplistic hidden variable theory, and a
more sophisticated theory might be able
to patch it up. It turns out that there is a
much more serious challenge to the idea
of hidden variables.

Bell's inequality

In 1964, John Bell showed that the

predictions of quantum mechanics in the
EPR thought experiment are significantly
different from the predictions of a
particular class of hidden variable theories
(the local hidden variable theories).
Roughly speaking, quantum mechanics
has a much stronger statistical correlation
with measurement results performed on
different axes than do these hidden
variable theories. These differences,
expressed using inequality relations
known as "Bell's inequalities", are in
principle experimentally detectable. After
the publication of Bell's paper, a variety of
experiments to test Bell's inequalities were
devised. These generally relied on
measurement of photon polarization. All
experiments conducted to date have found
behavior in line with the predictions of
standard quantum mechanics theory.
Later work by Henry Stapp showed that a
key property of local hidden variable
theories which lead to Bell's inequalities
was counter-factual definiteness. Building
on Stapp's observations, P.H. Eberhard
showed that any local counter-factual
model results in Bell's inequality even
without the assumption of there being
hidden variables unknown to physics upon
which the relevant observables depend.
Arthur Fine subsequently showed that any
theory satisfying the inequalities can be
modeled by a local hidden variable theory.
(Although Eberhard referred to his result
as "Bell's theorem without hidden
variables", Fine used a more general
definition of "hidden variables" that
includes the possibility of the observables
being elementary.) Fine went on to show
that any stochastic factorizable model
leads to Bell's inequality. Itamar Pitowsky
showed that Bell's inequality was a special
case of an inequality discovered by George
Boole which provides a consistency check
on whether data can be represented by
variables on a single classical probability
space. He interpreted this to be an
indication that the locality assumption
prevented the data from being represented
as events on such a space.[21]
As Eberhard's proof made use of both
locality and counter-factual definiteness it
was assumed that an interpretation could
reject either one of these to escape Bell's
inequality. Violation of locality is difficult to
reconcile with special relativity, and is
thought to be incompatible with the
principle of causality, nevertheless there
was renewed interest in the Bohm
interpretation of quantum mechanics
which keeps counter-factual definiteness
while introducing a conjectured non-local
mechanism in the form of the 'quantum
potential' that is defined as one of the
terms of the Schrödinger equation.
Mainstream physics preferred to keep
locality and reject counter-factual
definiteness. Fine's work showed that,
taking locality as a given, there exist
scenarios in which two statistical variables
are correlated in a manner inconsistent
with counter-factual definiteness, and that
such scenarios are no more mysterious
than any other, despite the fact that the
inconsistency with counter-factual
definiteness may seem 'counter-intuitive'.

Further insights resulted from the work of

Lawrence J. Landau. Landau showed that
if it is assumed that there is a single
classical probability space underlying all
the observables under consideration in the
EPR experiment, Bell's inequality will
result.[22] Thus the fundamental issue is
that Quantum mechanical probabilities
cannot be modeled using classical
(Kolmogorovian) probability regardless of
whether Quantum Mechanics is
considered a complete description of
reality or not. Regarding Landau's proof
Ray Streater notes that it shows that
Bohmian mechanics is inconsistent with
Quantum mechanics and succumbs to
Bell's inequality despite claims to the
contrary by its proponents. Streater notes
that Landau's proof only requires the
assumption of a single classical
probability space (a condition still satisfied
by Bohm's theory) and the fact that
Bohmian mechanics additionally
postulates the existence of a non-local
mechanism, cannot prevent Bell's
inequality from applying to it.[23]:99–102

Similar observations have been made by

Karl Hess, Walter, Philipp, Hans de Raedt
and Kristel Michielsen, who note that in
Bell's proof, Bell's assumption of a space
of hidden variables behaving as a classical
probability space is sufficient to produce a
contradiction with the predications of
Quantum mechanics via a consistency
theorem of N. N. Vorob'ev, a statistician
who had built on the same work of Boole
used by Pitowsky. The additional
assumption of locality used by Bell is
redundant and indeed Fine's work had
included a derivation of Bell's inequality
that did not require the assumption of
locality .[24] [25] Non-locality is not
sufficient to escape Bell's inequality, any
interpretation of Quantum mechanics
needs to reject counter-factual
definiteness to be consistent with the
Quantum mechanical predications. The
authors also produced a model of an EPR
experiment that is local but which violates
Bell's inequality, thus demonstrating that
non-locality is also not necessary for
escaping Bell's inequality.[26] They also
note a loophole regarding models of EPR
experiments whereby even a counter-
factual definite model can result in data
that violates Bell's inequality if as in actual
experiments there is a time window based
post-selection of results due to the need to
identify particles belonging to an emitted
pair.[26] Robert Griffiths has shown that
according to a quantum mechanical
analysis, the instrument settings for the
measurement of one of the particles in the
EPR scenario, does not influence
subsequent measurement results on the
second, thus ruling out non-locality as a
viable explanation for the EPR
However, Bell's theorem does not apply to
all possible philosophically realist
theories. It is a common misconception
that quantum mechanics is inconsistent
with all notions of philosophical realism.
Realist interpretations of quantum
mechanics are possible, although as
discussed above, such interpretations
must reject counter-factual definiteness.
Examples of such realist interpretations
are the consistent histories interpretation
and the transactional interpretation (first
proposed by John G. Cramer in 1986).
Griffiths notes that it is not "local realism"
that is ruled out by quantum mechanics
but "classical realism".[27] Some workers in
the field have also attempted to formulate
hidden variable theories that exploit
loopholes in actual experiments, such as
the assumptions made in interpreting
experimental data, although no theory has
been proposed that can reproduce all the
results of quantum mechanics.

Alternatives are still possible. A recent

review article based on the Wheeler–
Feynman time-symmetric theory rewrites
the entire theory in terms of retarded
Liénard–Wiechert potentials only, which
becomes manifestly causal, and,
establishes a conservation law for total
generalized momenta held
instantaneously for any closed system.[28]
The outcome results in correlation
between particles from a "handshake
principle" based on a variational principle
applied to a system as a whole, an idea
with a slightly non-local feature but the
theory is nonetheless in agreement with
the essential results of quantum
electrodynamics and relativistic quantum

There are also individual EPR-like

experiments that have no local hidden
variables explanation. Examples have
been suggested by David Bohm and by
Lucien Hardy.
Einstein's hope for a purely
algebraic theory

The Bohm interpretation of quantum

mechanics hypothesizes that the state of
the universe evolves smoothly through
time with no collapsing of quantum
wavefunctions. One problem for the
Copenhagen interpretation is to precisely
define wavefunction collapse. Einstein
maintained that quantum mechanics is
physically incomplete and logically
unsatisfactory. In "The Meaning of
Relativity", Einstein wrote, "One can give
good reasons why reality cannot at all be
represented by a continuous field. From
the quantum phenomena it appears to
follow with certainty that a finite system of
finite energy can be completely described
by a finite set of numbers (quantum
numbers). This does not seem to be in
accordance with a continuum theory and
must lead to an attempt to find a purely
algebraic theory for the representation of
reality. But nobody knows how to find the
basis for such a theory." If time, space, and
energy are secondary features derived
from a substrate below the Planck scale,
then Einstein's hypothetical algebraic
system might resolve the EPR paradox
(although Bell's theorem would still be
valid). If physical reality is totally finite,
then the Copenhagen interpretation might
be an approximation to an information
processing system below the Planck

"Acceptable theories" and the


According to the present view of the

situation, quantum mechanics flatly
contradicts Einstein's philosophical
postulate that any acceptable physical
theory must fulfill "local realism".

In the EPR paper (1935), the authors

realised that quantum mechanics was
inconsistent with their assumptions, but
Einstein nevertheless thought that
quantum mechanics might simply be
augmented by hidden variables (i.e.,
variables which were, at that point, still
obscure to him), without any other change,
to achieve an acceptable theory. He
pursued these ideas for over twenty years
until the end of his life, in 1955.

In contrast, John Bell, in his 1964 paper,

showed that quantum mechanics and the
class of hidden variable theories Einstein
favored[29] would lead to different
experimental results: different by a factor
of 32 for certain correlations. So the issue
of "acceptability", up to that time mainly
concerning theory, finally became
experimentally decidable.

There are many Bell test experiments, e.g.,

those of Alain Aspect and others. They
support the predictions of quantum
mechanics rather than the class of hidden
variable theories supported by Einstein.[4]

Implications for quantum


Most physicists today believe that

quantum mechanics is correct, and that
the EPR paradox is a "paradox" only
because classical intuitions do not
correspond to physical reality. How EPR is
interpreted regarding locality depends on
the interpretation of quantum mechanics
one uses. In the Copenhagen
interpretation, it is usually understood that
instantaneous wave function collapse
does occur. However, the view that there is
no causal instantaneous effect has also
been proposed within the Copenhagen
interpretation: in this alternate view,
measurement affects our ability to define
(and measure) quantities in the physical
system, not the system itself. In the many-
worlds interpretation, locality is strictly
preserved, since the effects of operations
such as measurement affect only the state
of the particle that is measured.[17]
However, the results of the measurement
are not unique—every possible result is

The EPR paradox has deepened our

understanding of quantum mechanics by
exposing the fundamentally non-classical
characteristics of the measurement
process. Before the publication of the EPR
paper, a measurement was often
visualized as a physical disturbance that
had to be inflicted directly upon the
measured subsystem. For instance, when
measuring the position of an electron, one
imagines shining a light on it, thus
disturbing the electron and producing the
quantum mechanical uncertainties in its
position. Such pat and convenient but
unhelpful explanations of quantum
mechanics remain commonplace
today,[30][31] but they fail to explain (among
other things) the EPR paradox, which
shows that a "measurement" can be
performed on a particle without disturbing
it directly, by performing a measurement
on a distant entangled particle. In fact,
Yakir Aharonov and his collaborators have
developed a whole theory of so-called
Weak measurement.[15]:181–184

Technologies relying on quantum

entanglement are now being developed. In
quantum cryptography, entangled particles
are used to transmit signals that cannot be
eavesdropped upon without leaving a
trace. In quantum computation, entangled
quantum states are used to perform
computations in parallel, which may allow
certain calculations to be performed much
more quickly than they ever could be with
classical computers.[32]:83–100

Mathematical formulation
The above discussion can be expressed
mathematically using the quantum
mechanical formulation of spin. The spin
degree of freedom for an electron is
associated with a two-dimensional
complex vector space V, with each
quantum state corresponding to a vector
in that space. The operators
corresponding to the spin along the x, y,
and z direction, denoted Sx, Sy, and Sz
respectively, can be represented using the
Pauli matrices:[20]:9

where is the reduced Planck constant

(or the Planck constant divided by 2π).

The eigenstates of Sz are represented as

and the eigenstates of Sx are represented

The vector space of the electron-positron

pair is , the tensor product of the
electron's and positron's vector spaces.
The spin singlet state is
where the two terms on the right hand side
are what we have referred to as state I and
state II above.

From the above equations, it can be shown

that the spin singlet can also be written as

where the terms on the right hand side are

what we have referred to as state Ia and
state IIa.

To illustrate how this leads to the violation

of local realism, we need to show that
after Alice's measurement of Sz (or Sx),
Bob's value of Sz (or Sx) is uniquely
determined, and therefore corresponds to
an "element of physical reality". This
follows from the principles of
measurement in quantum mechanics.
When Sz is measured, the system state ψ
collapses into an eigenvector of Sz. If the
measurement result is +z, this means that
immediately after measurement the
system state undergoes an orthogonal
projection of ψ onto the space of states of
the form

For the spin singlet, the new state is

Similarly, if Alice's measurement result is
−z, the system undergoes an orthogonal
projection onto

which means that the new state is

This implies that the measurement for Sz

for Bob's positron is now determined. It
will be −z in the first case or +z in the
second case.

It remains only to show that Sx and Sz

cannot simultaneously possess definite
values in quantum mechanics. One may
show in a straightforward manner that no
possible vector can be an eigenvector of
both matrices. More generally, one may
use the fact that the operators do not

along with the Heisenberg uncertainty


See also
Bell test experiments
Bell's theorem
Bra–ket notation
CHSH Bell test
Coherence (physics)
Correlation does not imply causation
Counter-factual definiteness
Ghirardi–Rimini–Weber theory
GHZ experiment
Interpretations of quantum mechanics
Local hidden variable theory
Many-worlds interpretation
Measurement in quantum mechanics
Measurement problem
Penrose interpretation
Philosophy of information
Philosophy of physics
Popper's experiment
Quantum decoherence
Quantum entanglement
Quantum gravity
Quantum information
Quantum pseudo-telepathy
Quantum teleportation
Quantum Zeno effect
Sakurai's Bell inequality
Wave function collapse
Ward's probability amplitude
Wheeler–Feynman absorber theory
Zero-point field

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2. Gaasbeek, Bram (Jul 22, 2010).
"Demystifying the Delayed Choice
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4. Aspect A (1999-03-18). "Bell's inequality
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398 (6724): 189–90.
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6. Advances in atomic and molecular
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7. Gribbin, J. (1984). In Search of
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8. The Einstein–Podolsky–Rosen Argument
in Quantum Theory (Stanford Encyclopedia
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9. von Neumann, J. (1932/1955). In
Mathematische Grundlagen der
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11. Quoted in Kaiser, David. "Bringing the
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British Journal for the History of Science 27
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12. Einstein, Albert (1936). "Physik und
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Elsevier. 221 (3): 313–347.
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Retrieved 9 December 2012. English
translation by Jean Piccard, pp 349–382 in
the same issue, doi:10.1016/S0016-
0032(36)91047-5 ).
13. Kumar, Manjit (2011). Quantum:
Einstein, Bohr, and the Great Debate about
the Nature of Reality (Reprint ed.). W. W.
Norton & Company. pp. 305–306. ISBN 978-
14. Griffiths, David J. (2004), Introduction to
Quantum Mechanics (2nd ed.), Prentice
Hall, ISBN 0-13-111892-7
15. Laloe, Franck (2012), Do We Really
Understand Quantum Mechanics,
Cambridge University Press, arXiv:quant-
ph/0209123  , , ISBN 978-1-
16. George Greenstein and Arthur G. Zajonc,
The Quantum Challenge, p. "[Experiments in
the early 1980s] have conclusively shown
that quantum mechanics is indeed orrect,
and that the EPR argument had relied upon
incorrect assumptions."
17. Blaylock, Guy (January 2010). "The EPR
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19. John Archibald Wheeler; Wojciech
Hubert Zurek (14 July 2014). Quantum
Theory and Measurement. Princeton
University Press. ISBN 978-1-4008-5455-4.
20. Sakurai, J. J.; Napolitano, Jim (2010),
Modern Quantum Mechanics (2nd ed.),
Addison-Wesley, ISBN 978-0805382914
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Boole To John Bell — The Origins of Bell's
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Selected papers

P. H. Eberhard, Bell's theorem without

hidden variables. Nuovo Cimento 38B1
75 (1977).
P. H. Eberhard, Bell's theorem and the
different concepts of locality. Nuovo
Cimento 46B 392 (1978).
A. Einstein, B. Podolsky, and N. Rosen,
Can quantum-mechanical description of
physical reality be considered complete?
Phys. Rev. 47 777 (1935). [1]
A. Fine, Hidden Variables, Joint
Probability, and the Bell Inequalities.
Phys. Rev. Lett. 48, 291 (1982).[2]
A. Fine, Do Correlations need to be
explained?, in Philosophical
Consequences of Quantum Theory:
Reflections on Bell's Theorem, edited by
Cushing & McMullin (University of Notre
Dame Press, 1986).
L. Hardy, Nonlocality for two particles
without inequalities for almost all
entangled states. Phys. Rev. Lett. 71
1665 (1993).[3]
M. Mizuki, A classical interpretation of
Bell's inequality. Annales de la Fondation
Louis de Broglie 26 683 (2001)
Peres, Asher (2005). "Einstein, Podolsky,
Rosen, and Shannon" . Foundations of
Physics. Kluwer Academic Publishers.
35 (3): 511–514. arXiv:quant-
ph/0310010  .
Bibcode:2005FoPh...35..511P .
doi:10.1007/s10701-004-1986-6 .
ISSN 0015-9018 .
P. Pluch, "Theory for Quantum
Probability", PhD Thesis University of
Klagenfurt (2006)
M. A. Rowe, D. Kielpinski, V. Meyer, C. A.
Sackett, W. M. Itano, C. Monroe and D. J.
Wineland, Experimental violation of a
Bell's inequality with efficient detection,
Nature 409, 791–794 (15 February
2001). [4]
M. Smerlak, C. Rovelli, Relational EPR [5]


John S. Bell (1987) Speakable and

Unspeakable in Quantum Mechanics.
Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-
Arthur Fine (1996) The Shaky Game:
Einstein, Realism and the Quantum
Theory, 2nd ed. Univ. of Chicago Press.
Selleri, F. (1988) Quantum Mechanics
Versus Local Realism: The Einstein–
Podolsky–Rosen Paradox. New York:
Plenum Press. ISBN 0-306-42739-7
Leon Lederman, L., Teresi, D. (1993). The
God Particle: If the Universe is the
Answer, What is the Question? Houghton
Mifflin Company, pages 21, 187 to 189.
John Gribbin (1984) In Search of
Schrödinger's Cat. Black Swan.
ISBN 978-0-552-12555-0

External links
Wikiquote has quotations related to: EPR

The Einstein–Podolsky–Rosen
Argument in Quantum Theory; 1.2 The
argument in the text;
The original EPR paper.
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
"The Einstein–Podolsky–Rosen
Argument in Quantum Theory " by
Arthur Fine.
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
"The Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen Argument
and the Bell Inequalities ".
Abner Shimony (2004) "Bell’s Theorem. "
EPR, Bell & Aspect: The Original
Does Bell's Inequality Principle rule out
local theories of quantum mechanics?
From the Usenet Physics FAQ.
Theoretical use of EPR in teleportation.
Effective use of EPR in cryptography.
EPR experiment with single photons
Spooky Actions At A Distance?:
Oppenheimer Lecture by Prof. Mermin.

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