In 1935, Albert Einstein, Boris Podolsky, and Nathan Rosen (EPR) wrote a now famous paper questioning the completeness of the formalism of quantum mechanics. Rejecting the idea that a measurement on one particle in an entangled pair could affect the state of the other—distant—particle, they concluded that one must complete the quantum formalism in order to get a reasonable, “local realist,” description of the world. This view says a particle carries with it, locally, all the properties determining the results of any measurement performed on it. (The ensemble of these properties constitutes the particle’s physical reality.) It wasn’t, however, until 1964 that John Stewart Bell, a theorist at CERN, discovered inequalities that allow an experimental test of the predictions of local realism against those of standard quantum physics. In the ensuing decades, experimentalists performed increasingly sophisticated tests of Bell’s inequalities. But these tests have always had at least one “loophole,” allowing a local realist interpretation of the experimental results unless one made a supplementary (albeit reasonable) hypothesis. Now, by closing the two main loopholes at the same time, three teams have independently confirmed that we must definitely renounce local realism [1–3]. Although their findings are, in some sense, no surprise, they crown decades of experimental effort. The results also place several fundamental quantum information schemes, such as device-independent quantum cryptography and quantum networks, on firmer ground.
It is sometimes forgotten that Einstein played a major role in the early development of quantum physics . He was the first to fully understand the consequences of the energy quantization of mechanical oscillators, and, after introducing “lichtquanten‚” in his famous 1905 paper, he enunciated as early as 1909 the dual wave-particle nature of light . Despite his visionary understanding, he grew dissatisfied with the “Copenhagen interpretation” of the quantum theory, developed by Niels Bohr, and tried to find an inconsistency in the Heisenberg uncertainty relations. At the Solvay conference of 1927, however, Bohr successfully refuted all of Einstein’s attacks, making use of ingenuous gedankenexperiments bearing on a single quantum particle.
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