Bell's Inequality:
Proving the "Spooky Action at a Distance"

Alex Fay '16

The project: Mr. Fay examined the history and the significance of Bell’s Inequality, a theorem in the field of quantum physics proposed in 1964 by Irish physicist John Stewart Bell (1928-1990). Bell’s work calls into question some of Einstein’s ideas by proposing that in certain situations, separated but related particles (known as “entangled”) can interact with each other instantly, a phenomenon Einstein famously dismissed as “spooky action at a distance.” Mr. Fay assesses the place of Bell’s theorem in science today, arguing that it “has been a profound development in modern physics, and that its implications are far-reaching.”

From his paper: “Having one area of science that can break the rules of the rest of physics, and that acts with such unusual properties, is very important, as it raises many questions. It forces us to ask whether our models of regular physics are completely correct if they only work in some areas and not others, it drives us forward towards trying to theorize how things might be connected, to find out why quantum acts the way it does when everything we have already learned dictates that it shouldn’t be possible…. And most importantly the questions that arise from quantum draw us towards future exploration and discovery, as well as towards the creation of new technologies that take advantage of this newfound field.”

Biggest challenge: “The material itself. A lot of it is confusing and mathematically dense so it took a long time. I’d read something then I’d have to read it like five more times before I understood what it was saying. There are equations that span entire pages that I was working on.”

Surprising discovery: “I started to learn about quantum entanglement, which I’ve always thought was cool. I was sort of the uninformed viewer; I thought quantum entanglement means possible teleportation in the future. That’s still a possibility way down the line, I suppose, but I also learned that it’s really just simply conservation of quantities. So being able to understand quantum entanglement and why it is so important was amazing for me.”

Tip for future scholars: “Get as many resources together as you can and then dedicate time to dive in. With a project like this, I found it hard to do a little bit at a time. You have to do a lot at once. You can’t spend a little bit of time on something like this.”