Experimental investigation of Popper's proposed ghost-diffraction experiment

Eliot Bolduc, Ebrahim Karimi*, Kevin Piche, Jonathan Leach, Robert W. Boyd

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


In an effort to challenge the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, Karl Popper proposed an experiment involving spatially separated entangled particles. In this experiment, one of the particles passes through a very narrow slit, and thereby its position becomes well-defined. This particle therefore diffracts into a large divergence angle; this effect can be understood as a consequence of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. Popper further argued that its entangled partner would become comparably localized in position, and that, according to his understanding of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, the 'mere knowledge' of the position of this particle would cause it also to diffract into a large divergence angle. Popper recognized that such behavior could violate the principle of causality in that the slit could be removed and the partner particle would be expected to respond instantaneously. Popper thus concluded that it was most likely the case that, in an actual experiment, the partner photon would not undergo increased diffractive spreading and thus that the Copenhagen interpretation is incorrect. Here, we report and analyze the results of an implementation of Popper's proposal. We find that the partner beam does not undergo increased diffractive spreading. Our work helps to clarify the issues raised in Popper's proposal, and it provides further insight into the nature of entanglement and its relation to the uncertainty principle as applied to correlated particles.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104002
JournalJournal of Optics (United Kingdom)
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 29 Aug 2017


  • Copenhagen interpretation
  • ghost diffraction
  • Popper experiment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics


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