Can Quantum Correlations be Explained Causally?



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14070026

Abstract

There is a strong correlation between the sun rising and the rooster crowing, but to say that the one causes the other is to say more. In particular, it says that making the rooster crow early will not precipitate an early dawn, whereas making the sun rise early (for instance, by moving the rooster eastward) can lead to some early crowing. Intervening upon the natural course of events in this manner is a good way of discovering causal relations. Sometimes, however, we can't intervene, or we'd prefer not to. For instance, in trying to determine whether smoking causes lung cancer, we'd prefer not to force any would-be nonsmokers to smoke. Fortunately, there are some clever tricks that allow us to extract information about what causes what entirely from features of the observed correlations. One of these tricks was discovered by the physicist John Bell in 1964. In a groundbreaking paper, he used it to demonstrate the seeming impossibility of providing a causal explanation of certain quantum correlations. This revealed a fundamental tension between quantum theory and Einstein's theory of relativity --the two central pillars of modern physics. It is a tension that is still with us today.