Date of Award

May 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Physics and Astronomy

Committee Member

Murray Dr. Daw

Committee Member

Antony Dr. Valentini

Committee Member

Lucien Dr. Hardy

Committee Member

Sumanta Dr. Tewari


In this dissertation, we explore two alternatives to quantum nonlocality in a single-universe framework: superdeterminism and retrocausality. These models circumvent Bell's theorem by violating the assumption that the hidden variables are uncorrelated with the measurement settings.

In Chapter 1, we introduce superdeterminism and prepare the groundwork for our results in Chapter 2. We start from a review of the topic, focussing on the various qualitative criticisms raised against superdeterminism in the literature. We identify the criticism of 'superdeterministic conspiracy' by Bell as the most serious, and introduce nonequilibrium extensions of superdeterministic models in an attempt to formalise the criticism. We study the different properties of these models, and isolate two conspiratorial features. First, the measurement statistics depend on the physical system used to determine the measurement settings. Second, the formal no-signalling constraints are violated although there is no causal connection between the wings.

We quantify in Chapter 2 the two conspiratorial features that we found in Chapter 1. We consider a Bell scenario where, in each run and at each wing, the experimenter chooses one of $N$ devices to determine the local measurement setting. We then show that a superdeterministic model of the scenario has to finely tuned such that measurement statistics do not depend on the physical system used to determine the measurement settings. This quantifies the first form of conspiracy identified in Chapter 1 as a fine tuning. We also show that a superdeterministic model of the scenario requires arbitrarily large correlations, quantified in terms of a formal entropy drop and in terms of mutual information, to be set up by the initial conditions. Such correlations are required to ensure that the devices that the hidden variables are correlated with are coincidentally the same as the devices in fact used for every run at each wing. This quantifies the second form of conspiracy identified in Chapter 2 as an arbitrary large correlation. Nonlocal and retrocausal models turn out to be non-conspiratorial according to both approaches, thereby singling out `conspiracy' as a unique, problematic feature of superdeterminism.

In Chapter 3, we change tracks to focus on retrocausality. Our results regarding retrocausal models are, in contrast to superdeterminism, positive. We first show how to construct a local, $\psi$-epistemic hidden-variable model of Bell correlations with wavefunctions in physical space by a retrocausal adaptation of the originally superdeterministic model given by Brans. We show that, in non-equilibrium, the model generally violates no-signalling constraints while remaining local with respect to both ontology and interaction between particles. Lastly, we argue that our model shares some structural similarities with the modal class of interpretations of quantum mechanics.

In Chapter 4, focus on the question whether retrocausal models can utilise their relativistic properties to account for relativistic effects on entangled systems. We consider a hypothetical relativistic Bell experiment, where one of the wings experiences time-dilation effects. We show that the retrocausal Brans model, introduced in Chapter 3, can be easily generalised to analyse this experiment, and that it predicts less separation of eigenpackets in the wing experiencing the time-dilation. This causes the particle distribution patterns on the photographic plates to differ between the wings -- an experimentally testable prediction of the model. We discuss the difficulties faced by other hidden variable models in describing this experiment, and their natural resolution in our model due to its relativistic properties. Lastly, we argue that it is not clear at present, due to technical difficulties, if our prediction is reproduced by quantum field theory. We conclude that if it is, then the retrocausal Brans model predicts the same result with great simplicity in comparison. If not, the model can be experimentally tested.



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