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Dr. Markus Aspelmeyer
Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI)

Project Title

Experimental Metaphysics at the Quantum-Classical Border

Project Summary

To what entities do our descriptions of observations refer to in the "real" world? This question is one of the most elementary ones of epistemology and it has undergone a broad spectrum of answers in the course of history, from Berkeley's "esse est percipi" over Kant's unobservable "Thing-in-itself" to Quine's ontological relativism. Due to its successful descriptive models Physics has often served as a guideline to develop these epistemological views, yet they remained basically unchallenged by experimental test. In fact, epistemology has long been considered a purely philosophical field living on a "meta"-level of physics (and it might be even the prevailing view up to date). It was only in the 1960s that John Bell discovered a fundamental incompatibility of certain epistemological views, namely physical realism and locality, with testable predictions of a quantum physics experiment. Since then, many experiments have confirmed that "local realism" is an untenable assumption about the world. Further incompatibility theorems have been put forward, most prominently by Leggett, which leave even less room for the possibility of physical realism as a manifest feature in the world.

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