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Bell’s theorem

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-Q004-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved March 18, 2018, from

Article Summary

Bell’s theorem is concerned with the outcomes of a special type of ‘correlation experiment’ in quantum mechanics. It shows that under certain conditions these outcomes would be restricted by a system of inequalities (the ‘Bell inequalities’) that contradict the predictions of quantum mechanics. Various experimental tests confirm the quantum predictions to a high degree and hence violate the Bell inequalities. Although these tests contain loopholes due to experimental inefficiencies, they do suggest that the assumptions behind the Bell inequalities are incompatible not only with quantum theory but also with nature.

A central assumption used to derive the Bell inequalities is a species of no-action-at-a-distance, called ‘locality’: roughly, that the outcomes in one wing of the experiment cannot immediately be affected by measurements performed in another wing (spatially distant from the first). For this reason the Bell theorem is sometimes cited as showing that locality is incompatible with the quantum theory, and the experimental tests as demonstrating that nature is nonlocal. These claims have been contested.

Citing this article:
Fine, Arthur. Bell’s theorem, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-Q004-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2018 Routledge.

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