|Irish physicist John Stewart Bell (1928-1990)|
In my book Quantum Reality which describes attempts to conceptualize quantum theory in human understandable terms, I write a lot about John Bell and his famous theorem. During this book's progress I exchanged letters with this brilliant physicist and Bell even wrote a blurb for Quantum Reality (along with Heinz Pagels and Isaac Azimov). Finally at the end of the book I included a song that I wrote that summed up Bell's Theorem in a nutshell. This song Bell's Theorem Blues was what Shan McAnena wanted to include in the Queen's College tribute.
A bit about Bell's Theorem and why it is so extraordinary: Most accomplishments in physics are either about theory or experiment -- some new piece of mathematics that explains the facts or some new piece of machinery that permits us to measure those facts. Bell's Theorem however is neither about theory nor about experiment but about Reality Itself. It is very unusual to find a sane person that attempts to speak coherently about Reality Itself. But Bell not only spoke about Deep Reality, he actually MATHEMATICALLY PROVED something important about this invisible nature which lies beneath everyone of our theories and experiments. Bell's accomplishment is unique. I challenge you to find another human being in the history of human thought who has produced anything even close to what this astonishing Irishman has done.
And what was the physics community's response to Bell's remarkable achievement? His physics colleagues either ignored Bell's work (which was initially published exactly 50 years ago in a new and obscure short-lived little journal called Physics). Shortly after it was published, physicists either ignored Bell's Theorem-- or dismissed it entirely as "mere philosophy".
Fifty years later, the importance of Bell's Theorem is generally recognized and has inspired work in quantum computing, quantum cryptography, quantum teleportation and many aspects of physics that employ quantum entanglement. (Part of the story of Bell's Theorem's rise from obscurity to stardom is told in David Kaiser's book How the Hippies Saved Physics.)
So I wrote this song as a joke at the end of my book. In one of his last videoed physics lectures at CERN in 1990, organized by Antoine Suarez, Bell actually shows off the text of Bell's Theorem Blues to an audience of physicists. But Bell quickly adds "I'm not going to sing it." Bell merely quotes it. In his Irish accent.
|Boulder Creek Blues Trio: Galt, Bowers and Rush|
Doctor Bell say we connected
He call me on the phone
Doctor Bell say united
He call me on the phone
But if we really together, baby,
How come I feel so all alone?
|A young John Bell on his Ariel Motorcycle|
|Belfast City Hall illuminated in rainbow colors to honor John Bell.|