Testing the reality of the quantum wavefunction

Speaker: 
Stephanie Simmons, Simon Fraser University
Event Date and Time: 
Thu, 2016-01-21 14:00 - 15:00
Location: 
Hennings 318
Intended Audience: 
Graduate

Is a quantum wavefunction exclusively an abstract mathematical tool — perhaps something which encodes our knowledge of a quantum system? Or is the quantum wavefunction instead a concrete physical entity which exists in reality? Until fairly recently it seemed like the answers to such epistemic/ontic questions could not be provided experimentally. Surprisingly, the Pusey-Barrett-Rudolph test, further developed by Barrett-Cavalcanti-Lal-Maroney (‘BCLM’) and later Branciard, offers an experimental avenue to rule out  ‘maximally psi-epistemic’ models of quantum mechanics. Here we report a successful (2.8 sigma) demonstration of the BCLM/Branciard test, free from the fair sampling loophole, which indicates that the quantum wavefunction cannot be purely a state of knowledge. To accomplish this we employed a single electron-nuclear two spin system in isotopically purified silicon. We identified and removed the dominant remaining sources of initialisation and measurement error in this system to achieve a simultaneous >99.9% fidelity for each of initialisation, manipulation and readout. Such a high degree of perfection is required to successfully perform the BCLM test, and also to surpass a number of modern quantum error correction thresholds. 

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