Questions of Reality

Physics 140, Spring 2017

Course Outline

This is a course in the foundations of quantum mechanics, half theory, half experiment. We will traffic in superposition, entanglement, and environmental decoherence. The Quantum Challenge by Greenstein and Zajonc will be our guide:

  1. We start with Chapters 1-2 on wave-particle duality. Some surprises await, despite the neat stories told in intro quantum textbooks.
  2. As interlude, we will review the basic formalism of quantum mechanics.
  3. Chapters 5-6 of Greenstein and Zajonc cover entanglement along with the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox and Bell's theorem, which get to the heart (or lack thereof) of local reality in quantum mechanics.
  4. Chapters 7-8 discuss decoherence and the measurement problem, one of the thorniest oustanding issues in quantum mechanics. We will approach decoherence through Schrödinger's original statement of the cat paradox and recent experiments on "cat" states in the lab.

In parallel with these discussions, we will run experiments with entangled photons, demonstrating the particle nature of the photon, single-photon interference, and violation of Bell's inequality.

Papers and videos
Links to labs working with correlated photons