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the Complete Review
the complete review - science

Quantum Reflections

edited by
John Ellis and Daniele Amati

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To purchase Quantum Reflections

Title: Quantum Reflections
Author: various
Genre: Science
Written: (2000)
Length: 204 pages
Availability: Quantum Reflections - US
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  • Contents:
    • Foreword, Daniele Amati and John Ellis
    • Biographical notes on John S. Bell, Mary Bell
    • 1. On Bell non-locality without probabilities: some curious geometry, Roger Penrose
    • 2. Reality in neutron interference experiments, Helmut Rauch
    • 3. Testing Bellís inequalities, Alain Aspect
    • 4. Beyond conventional quantum mechanics, GianCarlo Ghirardi
    • 5. Quantum effects in accelerator physics, Jon Magne Leinaas
    • 6. New aspects of Bellís theorem, Abner Shimony
    • 7. Does quantum mechanics carry the seeds of its own destruction ?, Kurt Gottfried
    • 8. John Bell and the moral aspect of quantum mechanics, Kurt Gottfried and N. David Mermin
    • 9. Remembering John Bell, Roman Jackiw

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Our Assessment:

-- : technical, but an interesting collection of papers addressing significant questions in physics raised by the work of John Bell, and a nice tribute to the man and his work

       Note: Because of the technical nature of this book the editors felt it was inappropriate to give it a letter grade.

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
American Journal of Physics . 3/2002 Philip Pearle
Nature . 7/12/2000 Daniel Greenberger
Times Higher Education Supp. . 9/3/2001 Ian Aitchison

  From the Reviews:
  • "There is no doubt that the distinguished editors and contributors have produced a volume that every student of quantum mechanics will want to own, alongside Speakable and Unspeakable." - Ian Aitchison, Times Higher Education Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Quantum Reflections is essentially a tribute to John Bell and his work, though the editors carefully try to "respect his attitude of avoiding celebrations and pompous words" (hence no explicit sub-title calling this volume A Tribute or the like). Bell and his work are, however, the unifying thread behind the pieces, and the collection as a whole does stand as a neat Festschrift for the great scientist. The contributions range from Mary Bell's useful Biographical notes and Roman Jackiw's remembrance of the man to a variety of considerations of Bell's work, considerations of the consequences of his theories (specifically Bell's Theorem and Bell's Inequality), and descriptions of experiments that test Bell's theories. Many of the contributions are fairly technical, but most of the authors also make an effort to pay homage to the man, using reminiscences and quotes from Bell's own writing in their pieces.
       John Bell (1928-1990) was a remarkable scientist who spent most of his career at CERN (from 1960-1990, with only one interruption). He is best known for the eponymous theorem that has been a thorn in the side of quantum mechanics since its publication in 1964. In considering the famous Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen (EPR) paradox Bell came up with a theorem, phrased by Alain Aspect in this volume as stating:

Some quantum mechanical predictions (EPR correlations) cannot be mimicked by any local realistic model in the spirit of Einstein's ideas.
       In a 1978 survey J.F.Clauser and Abner Shimony had summed up the consequences of the theorem:
The theorem has thus inspired various experiments, most of which have yielded results in excellent agreement with quantum mechanics, but in disagreement with the family of local realistic theories. Consequently, it can now be asserted with reasonable confidence that either the thesis of realism or that of locality must be abandoned. Either choice will drastically change our concepts of reality and of space-time.
       In their contribution, John Bell and the moral aspect of quantum mechanics, Kurt Gottfried and N. David Mermin state that "Bell has had the greatest impact on the interpretation of quantum mechanics of anyone since the 1920s"; few would argue that this is not true. Bell's challenges to quantum mechanics have bedevilled physicists for over three decades now -- and have also led to much fruitful inquiry and a wide array of experiments. This volume includes descriptions of a number of both theoretical and experimental approaches to testing Bell's theorem and inequalities.
       As Alain Aspect notes in his piece, Testing Bellís inequalities, one of the curious things about Bell's theorem was that, when he came up with it in the 1960s, there was no experimental data to go with it -- the situations Bell discussed had simply not yet been investigated. Part of the fun, then, was in designing experiments to test situations "where quantum mechanics predicts a conflict with Bell's inequalities". Alain Aspect describes some of his well-known efforts in his short, clear paper. Helmut Rauch describes his extensive work with neutron interference experiments in a longer contribution
       Abner Shimony's piece on New aspects of Bellís theorem is an excellent survey of the theorem, succinctly considering a number of questions posed by it and its current status. GianCarlo Ghirardi looks Beyond conventional quantum mechanics, usefully integrating Bell's own words (by quoting extensively from Bell's writing) into his own survey, which addresses quantum mechanics a bit more broadly.
       Jon Magne Leinaas considers Quantum effects in accelerator physics, reviewing work done in collaboration with John Bell.
       Among the most curious (and ingenious) papers is Roger Penrose's, which uses geometric configurations to demonstrate Bell's ideas. Penrose considers a number of representations (including one in which he finds "a remarkable relationship" between it and M.C. Escher's Waterfall) -- heady math, but a useful perspective for considering Bell's theorem.
       Kurt Gottfried's two contributions (one in collaboration with N. David Mermin), along with Roman Jackiw's remembrance, provide perhaps the best introduction to Bell's intellectual curiosity and specifically his attitude towards quantum mechanics.

       Quantum Reflections contains a nicely varied selection of papers. Both man and work are given their due, and it certainly offers an excellent survey of the current state of Bell's theorem -- i.e. what the major theoretical issues and experimental approaches to it are. Not all of the papers are brand-new -- some, for example, were presented at the Symposium on Quantum Physics in memory of Bell in 1991 -- but the points raised are still valid today.
       The papers are fairly clearly presented, generally introduced with a neat little summary and then again tied together at the end. Some of the pieces are fairly technical (Hamiltonians ! 4-dimensional Hilbert space !) but sufficiently clear for the interested layperson to get the gist (and generally more) of each contribution.
       A nice collection, strongly recommended for anyone interested in John Bell's work -- and in quantum mechanics in general.

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Quantum Reflections: Bell's Theorem: CERN: Other books of interest under review:

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