Bell’s Theorem

Suppose that Boris and Natasha are in different locations far away from each other. Their mutual friend Victor prepares a pair of particles and send one each to Boris and Natasha. Boris chooses to perform one of two possible measurements, say $A_0$ and $A_1$, associated with physical properties $P_{A_0}$ and $P_{A_1}$ of the particle he received. Each $A_0$ and $A_1$ has $+1$ or $-1$ for the outcomes of measurement. When Natasha receives one of the particles, she as well chooses to perform one of two possible measurements $B_0$, $B_1$, each of which has outcome $+1$ or $-1$. Let us consider the following quantity of the measurements $A_0$, $A_1$, $B_0$, $B_1$:
Since $A_0=\pm 1$ and $A_1=\pm 1$, either one of $A_0+A_1$ and $A_0-A_1$ is zero and the other is $\pm 2$. If the experiment is repeated over many trials with Victor preparing new pairs of particles, the expected value of all the outcomes satisfies the inequality
\langle A_0B_0+A_0B_1+A_1B_0-A_1B_1\rangle\leq 2
Proof of \eqref{eq:bell}:
\begin{align*}\langle A_0B_0+A_0B_1+A_1B_0-A_1B_1\rangle&=\sum_{A_0,A_1,B_0,B_1}p(A_0,A_1,B_0,B_1)(A_0B_0+A_0B_1+A_1B_0-A_1B_1)\\&\leq \sum_{A_0,A_1,B_0,B_1}2p(A_0,A_1,B_0,B_1)\\&=2 \end{align*}
The inequality \eqref{eq:bell} is a variant of the Bell inequality called the CHSH inequality. CHSH stands for John Clauser, Michael Horne, Abner Simony and Richard Holt. The derivation of the CHSH inequality \eqref{eq:bell} depends on two assumptions:

  1. The physical properties $P_{A_0}$, $P_{A_1}$, $P_{B_0}$, $P_{B_1}$ have definite values $A_0$, $A_1$, $B_0$, $B_1$ which exist independently of observation or measurement. This is called the assumption of realism.
  2. Boris performing his measurement does not influence the result of Natasha’s measurement. This is called the assumption of locality.

These two assumptions together are known as the assumptions of local realism. Surprisingly this intuitively innocuous inequality can be violated in quantum mechanics. Here is an example. Let $|0\rangle=\begin{pmatrix}
\end{pmatrix}$ and $|1\rangle=\begin{pmatrix}
\end{pmatrix}$. Then $|0\rangle$ and $|1\rangle$ are the eigenstates of
1 & 0\\
0 & -1
Victor prepares a quantum system of two qubits in the state
\begin{align*}|\psi\rangle&=\frac{|0\rangle\otimes |1\rangle-|1\rangle\otimes |0\rangle}{\sqrt{2}}\\ &=\frac{|01\rangle – |10\rangle}{\sqrt{2}} \end{align*}
He passes the first qubit to Boris, and the second qubit to Natasha. Boris measures either of the observables
$$A_0=\sigma_z,\ A_1=\sigma_x=\begin{pmatrix}
0 & 1\\
1 & 0
and Natasha measures either of the observables
$$B_0=-\frac{\sigma_x+\sigma_z}{\sqrt{2}},\ B_1=\frac{\sigma_x-\sigma_z}{\sqrt{2}}$$
Since the system is in the state $|\psi\rangle$, the average value of $A_0\otimes B_0$ is
\begin{align*}\langle A_0\otimes B_0\rangle&=\langle\psi|A_0\otimes B_0|\psi\rangle\\ &=\frac{1}{\sqrt{2}} \end{align*}
Similarly, the average values of the other observables ar given by
\begin{align*}\langle A_0\otimes B_1\rangle&=\frac{1}{\sqrt{2}},\ \langle A_1\otimes B_0\rangle=\frac{1}{\sqrt{2}},\ \mbox{and}\\ \langle A_1\otimes B_1\rangle&=-\frac{1}{\sqrt{2}} \end{align*}
Since the expected value is linear, we have
\langle A_0B_0+A_0B_1+A_1B_0-A_1B_1\rangle&=\langle A_0B_0\rangle+\langle A_0B_1\rangle+\langle A_1B_0\rangle-\langle A_1B_1\rangle\\&=2\sqrt{2}\end{aligned}\label{eq:bell2}
This means that the Bell inequality \eqref{eq:bell} is violated. Physicists have confirmed the prediction in \eqref{eq:bell2} by experiments using photons. It turns out that the Mother Nature does not obey the Bell inequality. What this means is that one or both of the two assumptions for the derivation of the Bell inequality \eqref{eq:bell} must be incorrect. There is no consensus among physicists which of the two assumptions needs to be dropped. An important lesson we learn from the Bell inequality is that the Mother Nature (Quantum Mechanics) defies our intuitive common sense. This also begs a troubling question. If we cannot rely on our intuition to understand how the universe works, what else can we rely on? One thing is certain. The world is not locally realistic.


  1. Michael A. Nielsen and Isaac L. Chuang, Quantum Computation and Quantum Information, Cambridge University Press, 2004

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