Are Quantum States Real?
Abstract
In this paper we consider theories in which reality is described by some underlying variables, λ. Each value these variables can take represents an ontic state (a particular state of reality). The preparation of a quantum state corresponds to a distribution over the ontic states, λ. If we make three basic assumptions, we can show that the distributions over ontic states corresponding to distinct pure states are nonoverlapping. This means that we can deduce the quantum state from a knowledge of the ontic state. Hence, if these assumptions are correct, we can claim that the quantum state is a real thing (it is written into the underlying variables that describe reality). The key assumption we use in this proof is ontic indifference — that quantum transformations that do not affect a given pure quantum state can be implemented in such a way that they do not affect the ontic states in the support of that state. In fact this assumption is violated in the Spekkens toy model (which captures many aspects of quantum theory and in which different pure states of the model have overlapping distributions over ontic states). This paper proves that ontic indifference must be violated in any model reproducing quantum theory in which the quantum state is not a real thing. The argument presented in this paper is different from that given in a recent paper by Pusey, Barrett and Rudolph. It uses a different key assumption and it pertains to a single copy of the system in question.
 Publication:

International Journal of Modern Physics B
 Pub Date:
 January 2013
 DOI:
 10.1142/S0217979213450124
 arXiv:
 arXiv:1205.1439
 Bibcode:
 2013IJMPB..2745012H
 Keywords:

 Quantum foundations;
 quantum state;
 ontology;
 Quantum Physics;
 General Relativity and Quantum Cosmology;
 High Energy Physics  Theory
 EPrint:
 19 pages, 4 figures. Remarks added concerning fact that ontic indifference assumption is violated in Spekkens toy model