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DESCRlPTIOX

OF

PHYSICAL

REALITY

777

MAY

15,

1935

PHYSICAL

REVI E 飞V

VOLUME

47

Can Quantum-Mechanical Description of Physical Reali守 Be Considered Complete?

A. EINSTEIN, B. PODOLSKY A技D N. ROSEN, Institute for Adr:anad Study, Princeton, New Jersey

(Received March 25, 1935)

In a complete theory there is an element corresponding

to each element of reality. A sufficient condition for the

陀 ality of

a physical quantity is the possibility of predicting

it with certainty, without disturbing the system. In quantum mechanics in the 臼 se of two physical quantities described by non-commuting operators, the knowledge of one precludes the knowledge of the other. Then either (1) the description of reality given by the wave function in

quantum mechanics is not complete or (2) these two

quantities 臼 nnot have simultan回归 reality. Consideration

of the problem of ma垣 ng predictions concerning a system on the basis of measurements made on another system that had previously interacted with it leads to the result that if (1) is fal自由 en (i) is al四 false.One is thus led to conclude that the d臼 cription of reality as given by a wave function is not complete.

  • 1. Whatever the meaning assigned to the term complete, the following requirement for a com-

plete 出 eory 使 ems to be a nee臼 sary one : every

庐 ysical

element of the physical reality must hαve α counter­

pα时 in tlze physical theory. We shall call

this the

condition of completeness. The second question is thus easily answered, as soon as we are able to decide what are the elements of the physical

reality. The elements of the physical reality cannot be determined by a priori philosophical con- siderations, but must be found by an appeal to r臼 ults of e.xperiments and measurements. A comprehensive definition of reality is, however. unneces盟巧rfor our purpose. \Ve shall be satisfied with the following criterion, which we regard as

A NY serious C。nsi ra阳。 f a

theory must take into account the dis- tinction between the objective reali守, which is independent of any theory, and the physical concepts with which the 出 eory operat岱. These concepts are intended to correspond with the objective reality, and by means of these concepts we picture this reality to ourselves.

In

attempting

to

judge

the· succe臼

of

a

physical theo厅, we may ask ourselves two qu臼- tions: (1 )“ Is the theoηr correct ?” and (2)“ Is the description given by the theory complete ?” It is only in the casεin which positive answers may be given to both of these questions, that the

concepts of the

theo巧r may be 盟 id to be 回 tis­

factory. The correctness of the theory is judged

reasonable. If, wit/tout 切 any way disturb{ng a

by the degree of agr臼 ment between the con-

dusions of the theory and

human e.xperience.

system, we can

predict witlt

cer.虹 inly (i.e.,

with

probability equal to ttnity)

tlze value of α 防 ysical

This experience, which alone enables us to make inferences about reality, in physi臼 tak·臼 the form of experiment and measurement. It is the second question that we wish to consider here, as applied to quantum mechani臼·

quantity, then there exists an element of physical

reality corres如 M 仿 z to this j功ysical quantity.

It

 

to

us

that this criterion, while far

from

e.xhausting all

possible

ways

of

recognizing

a

physical reali句r, at

least pro飞rides us

with one

  • 778 E I N ST E I N,

P 0 D 0 LS KY

A N D

R 0 S E N

such way, whenever the conditions 阳t down in

it 优 cur. Regarded not as a nee四础巾, but

merely as a sufficient, condition of reality, this criterion is in agreement with cla描ical as well as quantum-mechanical ideas of reality. To illustrate the ideas involved let us consider the quantum-mechanical description of the behavior of a particle having a single degree of freedom. The fundamental concept of the theory is the concept of stαte, which is supposed to be completely characterized by the wave function

札 which is

a function of the variables chosen to

describe the particle s behavior. Corresponding to each physically observable quantity A there is an operator, which may be designated by the same letter. If 非 is an eigenfunction of the operator A, that is, if

中’= A 中= a中,

(1)

where a is a number, then the physical quantity A has with certainty the valueαwhenever the particle is in the state given by 仇 In accordance with our criterion of reality, for a particle in the state given by 非 for 飞;vhich 巴q. (1) holds, there is an element of physical reality corresponding to the physical quantity A. Let, for example,

中 = eC'llrifh)p”,

(2)

where Jz is Plancks constant, Po is some constant number, and x the independent variable. Since the operator corresponding to the momentum of the particle is

we obtain

P= (h/2rri)a/ax,

(3)

In accordance with quantum mechanics we can only 阻 y that the relative probability that a measurement of the coordinate will give a result

lying betweenαand bis

巾,b)口.{""#4x= J" dx=b一α (6)

Since this probability is independent of α, but

depends only upon

the

difference

 

that all

values of

the

coordinate are

equally

probable. A definite value of the coordinate, for a par翩

tide in the state given by

Eq.

(2),

is thus

 

not

predictable, but may be obtained only by a

direct measurement. Such a measurement how·

ever disturbs

the particle and

thus alters

its

state. After the coordinate is determined.

the

 

particle will

no

lo略er be in

the state given

by

Eq.

(2).

The

usual

conclusion

from

this

in

quantum mechanics is that 切hen the momentum

ofα particle is known, its coordinate hαs no physicαl reality.

More generally, it is shown in quantum me- chanics that, if the operators corresponding to two physical quantities, say A and B, do not commute, that is, if AB¢BA, then the precise knowledge of one of them precludes such a knowledge of the other. Furthermore, any attempt to determine the latter e."{perimentally

will alter the state of the system in such a as to destroy the knowledge of the 币rst.

way

From this follows that either (1) the quαntum“

me chαnical description of reality given by the wave function is not complete or (2) when tire operators corresponding to two physicαl, quantities do not

if;'=#= (h/iTri)ai/;/ax= Po札

(的

Thus, in the state given by Eq. (2), the momen- tum has certainly the value Po· It thus has meaning to say that the momentum of the par· tide in the state given by Eq. (2) is real.

On

the other hand

if 巳q. (1)

does not hold,

we can no longer speak of the physical quantity A having a particular value. This is. the case, for

example, with the coordinate of the particle. fhe

operator corresponding to it, say q, is the operator of multiplication by the independent variable.

commute the two quαntities cαnnot have simttl幽

如何eous reality. For if both of them had simul幡 taneous reali可- and thus definite values-these value台 would enter into the complete description, according to the condition of completeness. If then the wave function provided such a complete description of reality, it would contain these values; these would then be predictable. This not being the ca肥, we are left with the alter- natives stated. In quantum mechanics it is usually assumed that the wave function does contain a complete

Thus,

description of the physical reality of the system q .a (5) in the state to which it corresponds. At first

DESCRIPTION

OF

PHYSICAL

REALITY

779

sight this assumption is entirely reasonab元, for the information obtainable from a wave function 能 ems to correspond exactly to what can be measured without altering the state of the

system. 毛Ne shall show,

however, that this as-

sumption, together wi出 the criterion of reality given above, leads to a contradiction.

2.

For this purpose let us suppose that we have

two systems,

I and 泣, which we permit to inter-

act from the time t = 0 to t = T, after which time

we suppose that there is no longer any interaction between the two parts. 飞vVe·suppose further that the states of the two systems before t = 0 were kno村口.飞N'e can then calculate with the help of Sch的 clinger’s equation the state of the combined

system

at any subsequent time·; in par-

l十口

ticular,

for any

t > T.

Let us designate the cor-

responding wave function

by

飞飞Te cannot,

曹.

however, calculate the state in which either one of the two systems is left after the interaction. This, according to quantum mechanics, can be done only with the help of further measuremcn旬, by a process known as the reduction of tlze wave packet. Let us consider the essentials of this

proce臼-

Let a1,句,句,… be the eigenvalues of some physical quantity A pertaining to system I and

向(x1), 1l2(X1), 1t3(X小… the corresponding eigenft.t nctions雪 where X1 stands for the variables

used

to describe the

first system.

Then 字, con­

sidered as a function of 屿, can be expressed

as

(7)

'¥(町, X2)= L二 ψ抱住2)缸”(x1),

where X2 stands for the variables used to describe the second system. Here 仇(均) are to be regarded merely as the coefficients of the expansion of

into

a

series

of

orthogonal

functions

uπ(x1).

Suppose now that the quantity A is measured and it is found that it has the valueαb It is then

concluded that after the measurement the first

system

is

left

in

the state given

by

the wave

function

left

in

that the state given

by

the second

is

the wave function

如何注. This

proc臼 s of

reduction

of the

wave

packet ;

the 飞;vave packet

given

by

the

infinite series (7)

ψk(xr)uk(Xi).

is 陀du臼 d

to a single 自 rm

The set of functions u,.(x1) is determined by the choice of the physical quantity A. 日, instead of this, we had ch岱 en another quantity,部y B,

ha飞过ng

the

eigenvalues b1, b章, ba,

and eigen-

functions v1(x1),到(x击,白(x1),… we should

have obtained, instead of Eq. (7), the expansion

(8)

可l'(x1,均)=三二白(x2)v.(x1),

where 白’s are the new coe伍 cients. If now the

quantity Bis measured and is found to have the value br, we conclude that after the measurεment , the first system is left in the state given by Vr(x1) and the second system is left in the state given

by ψ乓X2).

We see therefore that, as a consequence of two different m 四 surements performed upon the first system, the 配 ~ond system may be left in states with two different wave functions. On the other hand警 since at the time of measurement the two systems no longer interact, no real change can take place in the 段 cond system in consequence of anything that may be done to the first system. This is, of course, merely a statement of what is meant by the absence of an interaction between

the two systems. Thus, it is possible to assign two dijf erent wat•e fu.nctions (in our example 手’k and

({'r)

to the same reality

(the 等econd system

after

the interaction with the firs。- Now, it may happen that the two wave func- tions, ψk and ψn are eigenfunctions of two non- commuting operators corresponding to some physical quantities P and Q, respectively. That

~his may actually be the case can best 七e shown

by an example.

Let

us suppose that

the

two

勾rstems are two particles, and that

 

'1'(x1, x2) =

I

(9)

‘’ --a>

where x0 is some constant. Let A be the momcn- tum of the first particle; then, as we have seen

in Eq.

(4), its

eigenfunctions 飞:viii be

Up(X1) =e<2 ’“) p.r1

(10)

corresponding to the eigenvalue p. Since we have

here the ca四

of

a

continuous spectrum, Eq. (i)

will now be written

  • 780 El NS TE l N,

P 0

D 0

LS KY

AND

R 0 SEN

常(几句)击队叫( 11)

where

 

(12)

This

#’ P

however

is

the

eigenfunction

of

the

operator

 

P 目 (h/2-n}fJ/,帆,( 13)

corresponding to the eigenvalue

- p

vf

the

momentum of the second particle. On the other hand, if B is the coordinate of the first parti巾,

it has for eigenfunctions

v,,,(的)百o(的…吟,( 14)

corresponding to

the

eigenvalue

x,

where

o(叫一叫 is the well-known Dirac delta-function. Eq. (8) in this ca&e becomes

'll(xi, x2) = J~ cp,,,(x2)vz(

where

内(x2)=汇川 )(;i:-zi十;i:o)啡

==ho(x… h 十劣。): (16)

This

however,

is the eigenfunction of the

operator

 
 

Q=x2

 

(17)

corresponding to

the

eigenvalue

of

the

coordinate of the second particle. Since

PQ-QP=h/2训,( 18)

we have shown that it is in general possible for to be eigenfunctions of two noncom-

ψk and

muting operators,

quant1t1es.

corresponding

to

physical

Returning now to the general case contem- plated in Eqs. (7) and (肘, we assume thatψk and 仙 are indeed eigenfunctions of some non- commuting operators P and Q, corresponding to the eigenvalues P1c and q" respectively. Thus, by measuring either A or B we are in a position to predict with certainty, and without in any way

disturbing the second system, either the value of the quantity P (that is p,.:) or the value of the quantity Q (that.is qr). In accordance with our criterion of reality, in the first case we must consider the quantity P as being an element of reality, in the 肥cond case the quantity Q is an element of reality. But, as we have seen, both wave functions ψk and 仙 belong to the same reality. Previously we proved that either (1) the quantum-mechanical description of reality given by the wave function is not complete or (2) when the operators corresp<Jnding to two physical quantities do not commute the two quantities cannot have simultaneous reality. Starting then with the assumption that the wave function does give a complete description of the physical reality, we arrived at the conclusion that two physical quantities, with noncommuting oper- ators, can have simultaneous reality. Thus the negation of (1) leads to the negation of the only other alternative (2). We are thus forced to conclude that the quantum-mechanical d部crip~ tion of physical reality given by wave functions is not complete. One could object to this conclusion on the grounds that our criterion of reality is not suf- ficiently restrictive. Indeed, one would not arrive at our conclusion if one insisted that two or more physical quantities can be regarded as simul赠 taneous elements of reality only when they can be

simul阳 neously measured or predic阳 i. On this

point of view, since either one or the other, but not both simultaneously, of the quantities P and Q can be predicted, they are not simultane- ously real. This makes the reality of P and Q depend upon the pr创 ess of measurement carried out on the first system, which does not disturb the second system in any way. No reasonable definition of reality could be expected to permit this. 飞,Vhile 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 e.xists. We believe, however, that such a theo叩 is possible.