Home Page Science Frontiers

No. 40: Jul-Aug 1985

Issue Contents

Other pages











The Most Profound Discovery Of Science

This is what one scientist calls Bell's Theorem. Certainly not all scientists would agree with such an absolute declaration. Since Bell's Theorem lurks in the fog-shrouded country of quantum mechanics, most biologists probably haven't even heard of it. In any event, they would probably think the discovery of the genetic code more profound.

Why all the fuss over Bell's Theo-rem? In the laboratory, Bell's Theorem is associated with an admittedly spooky effect: the measurements made on one particle affect the measurements made on a second, far-removed particle. In theory, the second particle could be on the other side of the galaxy, with absolutely no physical connection between the two -- unless you admit to spooky action-at-a-distance forces. (Some over-ly zealous think-tankers have even contemplated applying this effect to long distance, untappable, unjammable communications with submarines!)

The article (referenced below) in which this apparent magic is discussed also dwells on another profundity associated with quantum mechanics: does that which is not observed exist? Einstein felt intuitively that it did; and one of his remarks on the subject led to this article's title. Unfortunately for Einstein, all recent laboratory experiments demonstrate that spooky actionat-a-distance forces do exist and that Einstein's intuition was incorrect.

(Mermin, N. David; "Is the Moon There When Nobody Looks? Reality and the Quantum Theory," Physics Today, 38: 38, April 1985.)

Comment. The laboratory experiments discussed in the article prove only that quantum mechanics is correct, not that it is spooky. After all, radioactivity was pretty mysterious not too many years ago. It still is, but we are accustomed to it now.

From Science Frontiers #40, JUL-AUG 1985. � 1985-2000 William R. Corliss