Graduation Year

2017

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Department

Physics

Second Department

Mathematics

Reader 1

Jason Gallicchio

Reader 2

Andrew J. Bernoff

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2017 Calvin Leung

Abstract

Bell's inequalities impose an upper limit on correlations between measurements of two-photon states under the assumption that the photons play by a set of local rules rather than by quantum mechanics. Quantum theory and decades of experiments both violate this limit.

Recent theoretical work in quantum foundations has demonstrated that a local realist model can explain the non-local correlations observed in experimental tests of Bell's inequality if the underlying probability distribution of the local hidden variable depends on the choice of measurement basis, or ``setting choice''. By using setting choices determined by astrophysical events in the distant past, it is possible to asymptotically guarantee that the setting choice is independent of local hidden variables which come into play around the time of the experiment, closing this ``freedom-of-choice'' loophole.

Here, I report on a novel experimental test of Bell's inequality which addresses the freedom-of-choice assumption more conclusively than any other experiment to date. In this first experiment in Vienna, custom astronomical instrumentation allowed setting choices to be determined by photon emission events occurring six hundred years ago at Milky Way stars. For this experiment, I selected the stars used to maximize the extent over which any hidden influence needed to be coordinated. In addition, I characterized the group's custom instrumentation, allowing us to conclude a violation of local realism by $7$ and $11$ standard deviations. These results are published in Handsteiner et. al. (\textit{Phys. Rev. Lett.} 118:060401, 2017).

I also describe my design, construction, and experimental characterization of a next-generation ``astronomical random number generator'', with improved capabilities and design choices that result in an improvement on the original instrumentation by an order of magnitude. Through the 1-meter telescope at the NASA/JPL Table Mountain Observatory, I observed and generated random bits from thirteen quasars with redshifts ranging from $z = 0.1-3.9$. With physical and information-theoretic analyses, I quantify the fraction of the generated bits which are predictable by a local realist mechanism, and identify two pairs of quasars suitable for use as extragalactic sources of randomness in the next cosmic Bell test. I also propose two additional applications of such a device. The first is an experimental realization of a delayed-choice quantum eraser experiment, enabling a foundational test of wave-particle complementarity. The second is a test of the Weak Equivalence Principle, using our instrument's sub-nanosecond time resolution to observe the Crab pulsar at optical and near-infrared wavelengths. Using my data from the Crab Pulsar, I report a bound on violations of Einstein's Weak Equivalence Principle complementary to recent results in the literature. Most of these results appear in Leung et. al. (arXiv:1706.02276, submitted to \textit{Physical Review X}).