# Aspect's Experiment Was Flawed

1. Aug 16, 2004

### Maestro

I'm a newbie to theoretical physics and I'm having difficulty accepting quantum mechanics. For starters, it sounds like the validity of quantum mechanics rests solely on the shoulders of Aspect's experiment (which sounds a bit far fetched to me). If I understand correctly, the experiment involves two entangled particles that are being analyzed by two different sensors. The sensors can only detect the spin direction of each particle about a given axis. Since the two particles must have the same spin (because they are entangled particles), simply measuring each particle's spin using each corresponding sensor set to the same axis should reveal identical results for every run. Instead, Aspect chose to measure the rotation about three random but specific axes and then see how many times the rotations were detected as identical. According to Aspect, the rotations of the two particles should be in the same direction more than 50% of the time. Simply put, there are nine possible combinations of clockwise and countercockwise rotations between the two particles. If the particles both have the exact same spins, then they will both have the exact same rotations for each of the three given axes. Regardless of what those rotations are (assuming they are not all identical), the results of the test should reveal that the rotations are in the same direction 5 out of every 9 runs, which is obviously greater than 50%. Here is where the experiment is flawed. Aspect's experiment assumes that every set of particles will have the exact same spin. Otherwise, the rotations about each axis will change for every set of particles. While one set of particles may have a clockwise rotation at a 54-degree axis, another set of particles could easily have a counterclockwise rotation about the same axis. Am I missing something, or are all of the particles used in the experiment virtually identical? If they are not all identical, then I don't see how the experiment is valid. My math says the rotations of each set of particles should be the same exactly 50% of the time (which is exactly what the results of the experiment revealed). It seems impossible that all the great minds in physics could have overlooked such a simple error, so I'm sure I must be missing something.

SOMEONE PLEASE ENLIGHTEN ME!

2. Aug 17, 2004

### ahrkron

Staff Emeritus
I don't have too much time right now, but I just wanted to say (for now) that QM rests on much more than Aspect's experiment.

The whole theory started from a detailed description of black-body radiation. Spin (a purely QM property) was discovered using molecular beams and later measured much more accurately. The wave behavior of electron beams was observed using crystals. There are semiconductor devices based on QM. Currently, Atomic Force Microscopes have shown configurations of atoms perfectly in agreement with QM.

I can't promise I'll get back to you on Aspect's experiment soon, but I'll try.

3. Aug 17, 2004

### ZapperZ

Staff Emeritus
You DO know that EPR-type experiments have progressed SIGNIFICANTLY beyond the Aspect experiment, and that more accurate tests by Zeilinger & Co. have produced even more accurate confirmation of QM, don't you? If you are not aware of this, maybe you should do some more literature search first and then get back to us if you still are not convinced.

Zz.

PS. BTW, the most convincing evidence that QM works and is valid came from you - you are using your modern electronics.

4. Aug 17, 2004

### humanino

Zz is in a terrible mood today

But as usual, Zz is perfectly right

5. Aug 17, 2004

### danitaber

QM is a description, not explanation

I would like to take a moment to remind everyone of the basic fact that Quantum Mechanics does not explain the world we live in, it just accurately describes it. It is much like an owner's manual or (and this is overused, but I'll use it again) a recipe. The point is, it works. The previous posts do a better job of explaining why and how, so I'll leave that to them.

6. Aug 17, 2004

### ZapperZ

Staff Emeritus
And I would like to point out that philosophically, physics doesn't EXPLAIN. It tries to dig deeper and deeper in trying to understand something, but if you look at everything that we now of, they are description on how things happen. This in fact especially true with classical mechanics. So let's not pick just on Quantum Mechanics for this reason.

Furthermore, I find the trivializing of the fact that "it works" rather puzzling. Nothing is more convincing in our understanding of the universe than to show that our idea of it works. If you look carefully, the theories and ideas that have the HIGHEST degree of certainty are the ones that we can say "it works!". The ones that have the smallest degree of certainty are the ones that are difficult to reproduce, not trivial to experiment on, and definitely almost impossible for any use! Being able to say that something works is nothing to sneer at.

Zz.

7. Aug 17, 2004

### DrChinese

Aspect is not now and has never been considered a test of Quantum Mechanics. QM was established circa 1927 and Aspect was performed circa 1981.

Questions arose early on about whether the Heisenberg Uncertainly relations represented an underlying reality, or whether it simply represented a limit on our ability to gain information about a system. The answer to this question would not affect QM itself directly, but could potentially have pointed the way to an even better theory in the future.

EPR, Bell and Aspect were inquiries along this line of reasoning. There was never really much doubt that the results of the Aspect experiments would obey the Heisenberg relations. But seeing is believing, and the results demonstrate that "reality" is incompatible with "locality". That was the issue with Aspect. It does not prove QM, although technically the results could have disproven QM had they been different.

As already pointed out, there are literally hundreds of specific effects predicted by QM. It is also extraordinarily precise. That places extreme limits on competing theories! And that is why alternative theories rarely get very far - they make predictions which are incompatible with already known phenomena.

So QM takes on all contenders, and remains standing. Aspect simply knocks out a whole class of competing theories, but does not eliminate all such competitors. If you can construct an alternative non-local realistic theory, maybe you will have something.

8. Aug 17, 2004

### DrChinese

You logic is far off here. You are looking at the problem from a perspective which is inaccurate. You should read the derivation of the Bell Theorem first, which presents the argument in a straightforward fashion. In fact, you should read EPR before that as well. Aspect should be read last. You can read all three from my web site:

EPR, Bell and Aspect

9. Aug 17, 2004

### ZapperZ

Staff Emeritus
Hey, I like your website. It looks quite useful in the sense that you have the historical collection of the EPR stuff. I am definitely putting your site as one of the links in the Yahoo e-Group that I run, so thanks for the effort. I have a couple of comments/questions though:

1. Did you realize that you have copyrighted documents on there? :) Not that this would be a problem since it appears that the site is predominantly for educational purposes.

2. You cited a rather dubious source (C.H. Thompson) regarding the validity of the EPR experiment interpretation. Having had an "encounter" with her, I can safely say that she can't work herself out of a paper bag on simple physics problems, much less handling QM and EPR experiments. [Her major objective is to disprove ALL of QM] I know for a fact that her "Chaotic Ball" paper was rejected by Am. J. of Phys. for publication. The only half-way legitimate questions being raised regarding Bell Theorem would be the one by Hess and Phillip on the possible time-loophole. But even that is highly disputed, especially by Mermin.

Zz.

10. Aug 17, 2004

### Nereid

Staff Emeritus
Welcome to Physics Forums Maestro!

Your interesting first post brought forth a number of very good responses, particularly the point of clarifying what you are really asking:
a) what are the core set of experimental and observational results which support the major aspects of QM?
b) in what way does the Aspect experiment relate to those major aspects?
c) how does the Aspect experiment support one set of (QM) proposals (details of the experiment, how it tests EPR, etc)?
d) what other tests of the Bell inequality, EPR etc have been proposed? What experiments have been done? what were the results? how did they differ from Aspect's (e.g. greater sensitivity, different domain)?
e) post-Aspect, what are the main areas of QM that physicists are looking into?

Perhaps you could let us know which of these - or others quite different - you are interested in?

11. Aug 17, 2004

### DrChinese

Thanks, I hope folks can get something out of these!

1. The 3 main docs I am keeping on the site were not provided with their authors' explicit permission. I can only hope that their inclusion here would meet with all of the authors' approval by presenting their wonderful work in its entirety. I cannot imagine an issue with it as they are strictly for educational purposes only. (I do not advertise or otherwise in any way seek revenue from my site.) The Bell paper is actually a reprint as the original is no longer in print (a few are still around though). I have all 3 as "original" paper copies in my own collection, but unfortunately I had marked them up years ago in my excitement!

2. I do not endorse nor do I agree with Ms. Thompson. However, I think she summarizes the best the "opposition" has to offer - and anyone who has encountered her is bound to have noticed her tenacity (as you must know, she denies that photons are particles). You are correct that she has been turned down for publication on the Chaotic Ball concept, and that is why I used a different one of her papers for my site. I did have her permission to include this paper.

The history of the debate (on the completeness of QM) is in many ways contained in these 3 papers. I have not supplied a plethora of links as my site is more of a special interest for those interested in seeing the original papers, and perhaps the occasional first-timer. If you have some links that you think I should include here, please send my way!

By the way, I strongly agree with your statements above about "trivializing" the descriptive power of QM. The difference between "describe" and "explain" when it comes to science is in many ways semantic. Actually, all scientific theories are "descriptive" models of some aspect of reality. Ultimately, their utility is more meaningful than their ability to explain the "true" nature of reality (or claim to explain it, as the case may be). And nowhere is the debate more clearly focused than with the completeness of QM.

12. Aug 17, 2004

### danitaber

ZapperZ (you *are* in a fiesty mood)
A) I'm not the one picking on QM; I would never do such a thing unless I had some ground-breaking alternative. It's just that Joe Public picks on QM constantly, and the thread had been going in that direction.

B)I was not sneering. Any theoretical framework that works is the definition of a scientifically sound theory, and is rare; and finding one that has worked as well as QM has not been done, and it doesn't look like one will come up in the near future.

But, when boiling down to the absolute basics, there it is. Any interpretation of QM (for use as description) is lacking for many reasons.
1) we have no accurate analogies.
2) Any time one answers the question "why", one opens the door to farther- and farther-fetched answers.
3)we can't directly experience what is happening.

Furthermore, the point I was trying to make (but obviously didn't communicate very well), is this: A final descriptive interpretation of QM does not exist. So "acceptance" of QM cannot be based on how it "feels" or "seems". Now, since all of you with letters after your names know the details of the experiments better than this lowly housewife, I leave you to explain all the other things on which QM rests. I am only able to confidently assert that the calculations and predictions of QM --no matter how it seems or how difficult it is to accept --are accurate enough to build an entire society out of them, as ours is. That is no laughing matter, nor is it a matter at which I sneer.

13. Aug 17, 2004

### Nereid

Staff Emeritus
Welcome to Physics Forums danitaber!

Great post; I hope you stick around.

14. Aug 17, 2004

### meteor

I still have to understand completelly aspect's experiment, but I read somewhere time ago taht a scientist called Franson also denied the validity of Aspect's experiment

15. Aug 17, 2004

### DrChinese

The Aspect experiment draws out people who don't like QM. They deny Aspect, often holding out hope that a local realistic theory is still possible. But it takes a lot more than denial to make a dent in Aspect's work. It takes solid science, and that is lacking in most critiques.

Maestro: you mention something about 5 of 9 permutations. The Bell Theorem is based around 8 permutations, not 9. And 4 of those 8 are considered "unreal" because their chances of being detected are outside the range of 0% to 100%. This is the science that Aspect tested. In other words, your math is wrong.

16. Aug 17, 2004

### Maestro

DrChinese,

You are absolutely correct that my math is wrong. I slept on the idea last night and woke up this morning realizing where I made the mistake. The 5 out of 9 numbers, however, came from the book that got me insterested in the subject, "The Fabric of the Cosmos" by Brian Greene. The book is very well written for the uneducated, but it tends to oversimplify the math and theories at the expense of a complete understanding. Thank you all for the numerous responses.

I have only one question about some of the responses. Several of you have mentioned (in one way or another) that QM is not flawed because of its accuracy in making predictions. I must wholeheartedly disagree. While there should be no question that QM is mathematically sound, its the how and why that I have a problem with. Danitaber may have described it most accurately when he said that "QM is a description, not an explanation". I have a hard time swallowing a theory that seems so far fetched (no offense), without a decent explanation of why. Until I get the answers I'm looking for, I'll just assume that QM is a theory that accurately makes predictions but has not yet been fully explained.

By the way, Danitaber, if that "housewife" comment was directed at me, you should know that a PhD is on the way, but not in physics. I'm engineering a cure for prostate cancer. Physics is just a recent curiosity.

17. Aug 17, 2004

### ZapperZ

Staff Emeritus
But then, you are admitting that you are questioning QM simply based on a matter of "taste". Physics doesn't work this way. In the history of physics, valid challenges to any ideas have to be based on something more substantial, such a experimental observations. You also should consider the possibility that you may be basing your taste on ignorance of the subject matter. After all, a lot of people found it distasteful and "far fetched" that the earth wasn't at the center of the universe. This isn't a beauty contest. We don't get to pick and choose based on emotional content.

Again, show any part of physics that is an "explanation" and I'll show you someone who hasn't understood physics. QM isn't the exception. Look at classical E&M if you don't believe me. Coulomb's law is purely phenomenological. I don't see you complaining about that.

The most common problem that I have often encounter when someone complains about QM in this manner is (i) a lack of understanding of QM and (ii) the a priori assumption that classical principles MUST be valid. You are locking your understanding of the universe based solely on your prejudices that your classical universe MUST work, that your classical concept of "wave" and "particle" should be applicable, that "position" and "momentum" must have clear definitions, etc, etc. So when QM indicates something entirely different, that these ideas must be redefined, you refuse to let go. Why? Because it feels weird and "far fetched", regardless on how spectacularly the experimental evidence are.

I find such things rather ironic. The most common criticism that quacks always throw at physicists is that they are stuck with the "party line" and that they refuse to have an "open mind" (whatever that is) and be creative to look at new things (such as their pet "theory"). And yet, to be able to understand and realize the validity of QM, one has to finally realize that all of our classical notions, things that we have taken for granted to be valid, must be re-evaluated in ways that can be truly revolutionary and very different than what we have known. This requires more creativity than what most people realize!

Zz.

18. Aug 17, 2004

### DrChinese

The interesting thing is: you are now on a path to understanding the significance of Aspect, even though your current position is to minimize it.

You see, your words above could verbatim be the words of Albert Einstein. It was certainly the position that drove him to be a part of EPR. He, too, felt that QM was incomplete. It seems so obvious that it must be... at first. After all, there is always the hope for learning more - obtaining an exciting explanation instead of boring descriptions. Why is h significant? There must be a good reason, and perhaps even a way around it.

But then Bell arrived - after Einstein had passed. So Einstein never had the benefit of Bell's work. Bell showed that the counterintuitive position - there is no deeper level of reality - was incompatible with locality. Locality, of course, being a cornerstone of Einstein's relativity. So now you have a choice, one which is yours freely to make:

a) There is a deeper level of reality, just as you suspected; but locality does not hold;
b) Locality rules, as Einstein believed, but there is no deeper level of reality.

Had he lived, I believe that Einstein would have accepted the overwhelming evidence that Aspect and other experiments have provided with regards Bell. He certainly would have accepted Bell itself as a fair test. And I would venture a guess that in the end, he would choose b) over a).

19. Aug 17, 2004

### DrChinese

P.S. If you are not familiar with my tag line - "the map is not the territory" (Korzybski) - consider this: all theories are maps, and no map is ever the territory itself. All maps are always useful representations of the territory. All theories are useful models of reality. But no theory is explaining reality itself - always a subset of reality. Example: Do you believe the sun heats the Earth? If so, why does it heat the Earth? Why is there a sun? Why does it emit heat? Where does the heat come from? Why is there fusion? Why do neutrinos come out of the sun? No matter what theory you put forth, a criticism can be made that it is incomplete because it describes and does not explain. I don't see the point of stating the obvious: there is still more for us to learn.

No one thinks our understanding of QM has reached an endpoint. That is NOT a conclusion I would draw from Aspect. But the bar has been raised for competing theories.

Last edited: Aug 17, 2004
20. Aug 17, 2004

### Maestro

ZapperZ,

You misunderstand my questioning. I am not challenging QM. Clearly, I don't have the background in physics to boast that I know better than the other members of this forum. I am merely trying to understand QM from an analytical perspective. If you remember that (at one time) people actually refused to believe that the earth could be spherical, and that people refused to believe that the earth was not the center of the universe, and that people refused to believe that time was not an absolute, then how can you refuse to accept that QM may be inaccurate (not in its ability to predict, but in its ability to explain why)? A good scientist should always partially question the validity of his/her predecesors. Otherwise, without the pioneering scientists who challenged the false notions about the shape of the world, we might still believe that the earth is flat.

The best example I can think of is Newton. His theories explained everything (at least to the sophistication of his day and for two centuries afterward). The mathematical formulas of Newtonian physics could predict with amazing accuracy. However, newton was wrong. When Einstien came along and permanently changed our view of the physical world, he changed the very foundation of physics. Experiment after experiment showed that Newton's calculations were correct. His math wasn't wrong (to a certain extent), but his how's and why's were wrong. It is for this reason that I partially question the validity of QM's assumptions and suggest that another perfectly acceptable explanation could be a possibility. Once again, I am not challenging QM. I am merely trying to keep an open mind (the very thing that you accuse me of not doing).

By the way, can you suggest an unbiased resource that might help to speed the understanding of modern physics and Quantum Mechanics? So far I've only encountered those that support it or those that challenge it, but none that offer an open-minded analysis of it.

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