Category Archives: Communication of science

An ongoing experiment in sociology of science

Two months ago, Pusey, Barrett and Rudolph posted on the arXiv a paper with the title The quantum state cannot be interpreted statistically. It generated a lot of hype, and also serious interest. As for myself, I did not finish to understand it (my latest attempt is at the bottom of this series of comments), but this is not the matter now.

Two days ago, the same Barrett and Rudolph posted a new paper on the arXiv (with two other co-authors). The title: The quantum state can be interpreted statistically.

What’s going on? There is no mystery: in the first paper, the no-go theorem was proved under some assumptions; in the second paper, one of the assumptions is removed and an explicit model is constructed. Scientifically, this is nice: it clarifies the conditions, under which a statistical interpretation can be constructed.

This post is not meant as a criticism of the scientific content of those papers — I don’t do refereeing on demand, and even less by blog. I am just alerting those interested in sociology of science. Indeed, in the coming week or so, it will be very instructive to monitor the reaction of the scientific media to this new paper. The claim as stated in the title would deserve the same hype as the previous one (if you care about A, both the propositions “A is false” and “A is true” carry the same importance). My prediction is that, while there may be discussions in scientific blogs, the journals will not pick up the story this time. Anyway, let’s not waste more time by discussing all possible scenarios: we’ll discuss post factum on the one that will actually have happened.