Aspect in 2015, portrait via the Royal Society
|Born||15 June 1947|
|Alma mater||École Normale Supérieure de Cachan (E.N.S., 1965)|
|Known for||Bell test experiments|
Centre national de la recherche scientifique
Aspect is a graduate of the École Normale Supérieure de Cachan (ENS Cachan). He passed the 'agrégation' in physics in 1969 and received his master's degree from Université d'Orsay. He then did his national service, teaching for three years in Cameroon.
In the early 1980s, while working on his PhD thesis from the academic rank of lecturer, he performed the Bell test experiments that showed that Albert Einstein, Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen's reductio ad absurdum of quantum mechanics, namely that it implied 'ghostly action at a distance', did in fact appear to be realised when two particles were separated by an arbitrarily large distance (see EPR paradox). A correlation between their wave functions remained, as they were once part of the same wave-function that was not disturbed before one of the child particles was measured.
Aspect's experiments, following the first experiment of Stuart Freedman and John Clauser in 1972, were considered to provide further support to the thesis that Bell's inequalities are violated in its CHSH version, in particular by closing a form of the locality loophole. However, his results were not completely conclusive since there were loopholes that allowed for alternative explanations that comply with local realism.
Aspect was deputy director of the French "grande école" SupOptique until 1994. He is a member of the French Academy of Sciences and French Academy of Technologies, and professor at the École Polytechnique. In 2005 he was awarded the gold medal of the Centre national de la recherche scientifique, where he is Research Director. The 2010 Wolf Prize in physics was awarded to Aspect, Anton Zeilinger and John Clauser. In 2013 Aspect was awarded both the Niels Bohr International Gold Medal and the UNESCO Niels Bohr Medal. In 2013 he was also awarded the Balzan Prize for Quantum Information Processing and Communication.
For his fundamental experiments in quantum optics and atomic physics. Alain Aspect was the first to exclude subluminal communication between the measurement stations in experimental demonstrations that quantum mechanics invalidates separable hidden-variable theories and the first to demonstrate experimentally the wave–particle duality of single photons. He co-invented the technique of velocity-selective coherent population trapping, was the first to compare the Hanbury Brown-Twiss correlations of fermions and bosons under the same conditions, and the first to demonstrate Anderson localization in an ultra-cold atom system. His experiments illuminate fundamental aspects of the quantum-mechanical behaviour of single photons, photon pairs and atoms.
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