Back in 1961, the Nobel Prize–winning physicist Eugene Wigner outlined a thought experiment that demonstrated one of the lesser-known paradoxes of quantum mechanics. The experiment shows how the strange nature of the universe allows two observers—say, Wigner and Wigner’s friend—to experience different realities.
Since then, physicists have used the “Wigner’s Friend” thought experiment to explore the nature of measurement and to argue over whether objective facts can exist. That’s important because scientists carry out experiments to establish objective facts. But if they experience different realities, the argument goes, how can they agree on what these facts might be?~snip~
Last year, however, physicists noticed that recent advances in quantum technologies have made it possible to reproduce the Wigner’s Friend test in a real experiment. In other words, it ought to be possible to create different realities and compare them in the lab to find out whether they can be reconciled.
And today, Massimiliano Proietti at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and a few colleagues say they have performed this experiment for the first time: they have created different realities and compared them. Their conclusion is that Wigner was correct—these realities can be made irreconcilable so that it is impossible to agree on objective facts about an experiment.
In a joint paper Jeff Bub and Itamar Pitowski argued that the quantum state represents `the credence function of a rational agent [...] who is updating probabilities on the basis of events that occur'. In the famous thought experiment designed by Wigner, Wigner's friend performs a measurement in an isolated laboratory which in turn is measured by Wigner. Here we consider Wigner's friend as a rational agent and ask what her `credence function' is. We find experimental situations in which the friend can convince herself that updating the probabilities on the basis of events that happen solely inside her laboratory is not rational and that conditioning needs to be extended to the information that is available outside of her laboratory. Since the latter can be transmitted into her laboratory, we conclude that the friend is entitled to employ Wigner's perspective on quantum theory when making predictions about the measurements performed on the entire laboratory, in addition to her own perspective, when making predictions about the measurements performed inside the laboratory.
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