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A quantum life

John Bell in 1983

Quantum information processing and computing has rapidly moved into the mainstream; even the new prime minister of Canada can passably describe a quantum computer to a layman. However, it is important to reflect on the long and tortuous path that the study of quantum fundamentals has taken into the mainstream. Indeed, John Bell's famous impish wit allowed him to host the "unofficial" first session on quantum fundamentals at a meeting in Montana in 1983. Everyone knew of John's free wheeling sense of humour and his formidable reputation as a theorist and accelerator physicist at CERN gave him the credibility to delve into the foundations of quantum mechanics as a "hobby." John's friend and collaborator Reinhold Bertlemann famously found out about Bell's after hours activities when a mutual acquaintance showed him an article in the CERN Courier describing local realism via Bertlemann's predilection for wearing mismatched socks. When experimental tests of local realistic theories were finally realized, however, the sheer beauty and impact of Bell's simple exposition of quantum fundamentals sent shock waves throughout the physics community that are still being felt today.

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