The Quantum Pontiff

Gisin Wins Inaugural Bell Award

The Center for Quantum Information and Quantum Control (the palindromic CQIQC) recently established the John Stewart Bell Prize for Research on Fundamental Issues in Quantum Mechanics and their Applications. And the first winner is (opening the envelope, wondering whether he will find a dead or live cat inside)….Professor Nicolas Gisin from the Université de Genève:

Nicolas Gisin, Professor of Physics at the Université de Genève, is a true visionary and a leader among his peers. He was among the first to recognize the importance of Bell’s pioneering work, and has throughout his career made a series of remarkable contributions, both theoretical and experimental, to the foundations of quantum mechanics and to their application to practical quantum cryptography systems. His work on the latter, for instance, was highlighted in the February 2003 issue of MIT’s Technology Review as one of the “10 Emerging Technologies that will Change the World”.

We award the inaugural John Stuart Bell Prize for Research on Fundamental Issues in Quantum Mechanics and their Applications to Prof. Gisin in recognition of two of his recent contributions – it should come as no surprise that they span theory as well as experiment.

The award cites two of Prof. Gisin’s recent pieces of work, one on establishing the security of key distributions schemes like quantum cryptography using only experimental observation of the devices and not the assumptions of an underlying theory (like quantum theory.) See quant-ph/0510094. The second is for his work on some impressive Bell inequality tests, including, “Spacelike separation in a Bell test assuming gravitationally induced collapses”, arXiv:0803.2425, which shows that some theories in which collapse of the wavefunction is induced by gravity are not experimentally supported.

Congrats to Prof. Gisin.


  1. #1 mmfiore
    June 30, 2009

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  2. #2 Neil B ♪
    June 30, 2009

    Bell was brilliant and will remain famous for his appreciation of the paradoxical nature of quantum entanglement (specifically, that there were empirical consequences of the relations he studied.) I’ve thought of similar issues, some bandied around on UseNet etc:

    1. Let’s accurately measure the momentum of a atom or nucleus; no need for accurate position. The object emits a photon or particle, and we figure there is some wave function (maybe or not truly radial, but certainly not a specific direction.) Then we accurately measure the momentum of the emitter again and use conservation to “infer” (instead of a direct measure …) the necessary (?) momentum of the emitted particle. So, does our measuring the emitter cause a “collapse” of the distant, expanding wave function? (Maybe I should say, “reallocation” of the WF such as happens with Renninger negative measurements – they tell us a particle is not at a given place, which suddenly constrains where it can be but doesn’t directly localize it. Take that, decoherence sophists!) I never saw a truly satisfying answer, although a complicated take from an expert (?) involving spherical harmonics looked impressive.

    2. This isn’t really the same type of measurement issue, but it does involves the measurement of spin in different frames. In 1999 I posted a spin paradox to sci.physics.research (see The problematical nature of photon spin. ) The problem: an emitter sends photons of opposite spin (actually, the same relative to their own propagation; i.e. both RH or both LH) in opposite directions in the rest frame. No problem there. But if I am watching the emitter in a frame where it moves at high speed, there’s an issue. For me, the photons go off at some angle less than 180 degrees. Each spin is parallel to the respective line of propagation. Relative to a point such as along the line of motion of the emitter, I consider the angular momentum. Since the photons’ summed spins no longer add to zero, there is net angular momentum after the emission. Now what? People argued and never IMHO solved the problem or even gave a good reference to precedent discussion. One solution mentioned, was a relative displacement of photon paths (expectation value I suppose, using the displaced linear momenta to correct the changed AM) but I’ve never heard of that and it seems weird.

    I plan to put up more on all that at my blog “Tyrannogenius” (maybe pretentious handle, but admit it’s a bit clever?)

  3. #3 Rod
    July 2, 2009

    It’s a real tribute to Prof. Gisin, but “the inaugural Bell award” is insufficiently specified: there is the Gordon Bell Prize (parallel computing), the Bert Bell Award (American football), the BMA Bell Awards, and the MNEA School Bell Award, as well as probably others.

  4. #4 Dave Bacon
    July 2, 2009

    There is only one god and he is John Bell. :)