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No Psi−Epistemic Model Can Fully Explain the Indistinguishability of Quantum States

Jonathan Barrett‚ Eric G. Cavalcanti‚ Raymond Lal and Owen J. E. Maroney


According to a recent no-go theorem [M. Pusey, J. Barrett and T. Rudolph, Nat. Phys. 8, 475 (2012)NPAHAX1745-247310.1038/nphys2309], models in which quantum states correspond to probability distributions over the values of some underlying physical variables must have the following feature: the distributions corresponding to distinct quantum states do not overlap. In such a model, it cannot coherently be maintained that the quantum state merely encodes information about underlying physical variables. The theorem, however, considers only models in which the physical variables corresponding to independently prepared systems are independent, and this has been used to challenge the conclusions of that work. Here we consider models that are defined for a single quantum system of dimension d, such that the independence condition does not arise, and derive an upper bound on the extent to which the probability distributions can overlap. In particular, models in which the quantum overlap between pure states is equal to the classical overlap between the corresponding probability distributions cannot reproduce the quantum predictions in any dimension d≥3. Thus any ontological model for quantum theory must postulate some extra principle, such as a limitation on the measurability of physical variables, to explain the indistinguishability of quantum states. Moreover, we show that as d→, the ratio of classical and quantum overlaps goes to zero for a class of states. The result is noise tolerant, and an experiment is motivated to distinguish the class of models ruled out from quantum theory. © 2014 American Physical Society.

Physical Review Letters