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Caroline H. Thompson
local time: 2024-05-28 19:39 (+00:00 )
Caroline H. Thompson (About)
World Science Database Profile
(Died: February 8, 2006)
Computer Scientist
Interests: Epr, Bell's Inequality

I was born in England in 1943.  I was quiet and studious as a child, and remained so until I entered an area of controversial physics, at age 50.  I remain studious, but am not by any means so quiet!  I have acquired a mission, to tell the world the hard facts about the ?EPR? experiments that are being reported as showing that the world we live in obeys weird quantum laws: ?entangled? particles are supposed to be able to influence each other instantaneously however far apart they are.   The experiments have been misinterpreted.  The theory is crazy, but there is no sign that the universe is. 

To return to my story, the 1939-45 war meant the our family at first had no permanent home, with my father, an air-line pilot, moving from one RAF base to another and then, for a year or more, out to Baghdad.   We lived in Cairo for some time, and my elder sister and I were sent to a French-speaking school.  I do not remember having managed to learn any French (later I did learn some, enabling me to read Alain Aspect?s PhD thesis, a landmark in my self-appointed challenge).  I became exceedingly introverted, too shy to ask questions.  I learned to work things out for myself.

Back in England, I had a very conventional education, always gaining high grades at school, loved by the teachers, musical, a nature lover, but with few friends.  I won a scholarship to Cambridge to read mathematics, but here was not so successful.  I could no longer score 90% in tests!  I was up against boys for the first time in my life, and they had been taught more than me.  Still, I persevered and later (much later, in 1992 or so) discovered that my Director of Studies had thought highly of me, saying that she considered me capable of original thought.  I gained a 2-1, and enough of an introduction to the ideas of mathematical physics to know that there was something odd going on.  Neither relativity nor quantum theory seemed reasonable.

I shall pass swiftly over my uninspiring career.  I tried teaching, then I worked as a ?systems analyst?, producing a simulation program of the air traffic control system around Hong Kong airport.  Then I decided to aim for a job in the country, and went to Reading University to gain the qualifications (an MSc in Biometry) for a post as statistician at East Malling Research Station, where they do research on horticultural crops.  I learned their version of ?experimental method?, in which human bias was kept under strict control: the statisticians laid down the rules, aiming to ensure that the published results were valid.  The local fruit-growers relied on them in their commercial decisions.

Marriage, at age 32, marked the end of my academic career.  I had two children, then moved to Wales, where my father had retired to a small farm.  My husband is not academic, and reckons to be able to turn his hand to most things, but Wales proved a difficult place to find employment.  We are not Welsh, and have not learned the language.  We tried running a small transport business, but this was a failure.  In 1990 we lost our home and had to move into rented accommodation.  We were very lucky in this ? we are still here, in a very pleasant house with a garden of which we are quite proud.

I took a training course in Information Technology and enjoyed it, then went to University of Wales, Aberystwyth, to do an MSc in Computer Science.  I enjoyed this, too, but it showed no sign of leading to a job.  I did not fit in, did not speak Welsh.  My supervisor, Horst Holstein, had some books on physics.  He lent me Hendrik Lorentz? ?Problems of Modern Physics?, published 1927.  I immersed myself in a world that was partly the ?neural nets? of my MSc project and partly the world of fundamental physics ?   not the mathematical version of it this time, though, but the intuitive one.  I wanted to understand what magnetism really was, what light really was, how the aether worked  ? I was sure Lorentz was right and there was an aether, but I doubted whether it was the absolute, static, one that he had in mind.

Round about this time, I came across a reference I?d been looking for.  About a year earlier I had heard for the first time of the EPR experiments that were supposed to demonstrate quantum action-at-a-distance.  I had been amazed, as I had vaguely assumed that quantum theory would have died out by now as it seemed so blatantly inadequate.  To me, a statistical theory cannot make sense without a more detailed one existing, in principle at least, to describe the entities that are being analysed.  I knew in my bones that I would be able to find a more rational explanation for whatever it was those experiments had produced.  Anyway, towards the end of 1993 I came across in a New Scientist newsletter a reference to Alain Aspect?s papers in Physical Review Letters.  My ticket for Aberystwyth University Library had just lapsed, but there was nothing to stop me going and looking at the papers.  I read one.  I could almost understand it.  I knew that this was within my grasp, as this was clearly not the incontrovertible evidence that one would reasonably have hoped for!  How on earth had it happened that the world had been asked to accept ?nonlocality? on such flimsy evidence?

From this point on there was no turning back.  I have devoted my life to finding out how the various ?quantum entanglement? experiments worked and to trying to publicise my findings.  As soon as I had worked out my first idea (I had rediscovered the ?detection loophole? after just a few days of thought) I wrote a short report on it, took it to my own head of section and to the Physics Department, and asked if I could please continue to use the library and the University computer so as to continue my investigations.  The Physics Department were noncommittal, but the Computer Science head, Frank Bott, supported me.  He is still doing so.

For the next few months I studied the experiments, following the chains of references, sometimes breaking off to find out the relevant physics from text books.  It was very exciting.  It did not take long to understand the experiments (other ?realists? had been there before me), but the challenge was to understand the community!  What had gone wrong?  How could they fail to see what I could see?  How could they ignore the realist papers?  I wrote up my own simple explanation, using analogy and minimal mathematics so that I did not see how any reader could fail to understand it.  I started trying to tell the world.

My first opportunity was Roger Penrose, who had the misfortune to be presenting a set of three public lectures in Aberystwyth, March 1994.  I took my papers round to his hotel, then arranged to meet him in the Physics Department lounge for coffee.  Poor man, he had expected a quiet little holiday, and instead had to listen to a madwoman!  I had, unfortunately, just had a ?revelation? about the nature of gravity, and poured all this out instead of concentrating on the solid facts of those experiments of Alain Aspect?s!

He escaped, and did not reply to my letters.  I looked elsewhere, to the people who had written the papers and books I was now reading, and wrote to a few of them.  Quite a number of them thought my first paper was good, and I began to meet people, starting with a trip to Manchester to see Trevor Marshall, who had written an important paper with Emilio Santos and Franco Selleri in 1983.  A few months later I gave my first talk, a seminar at the University of Bari, Italy, invited there by my good friend Selleri.  That same summer (1995) I visited Santos in Santander, and in the autumn spoke at a conference in Durham, at the invitation of another good friend, Euan Squires, sadly now deceased.  I have now given similar talks on about 6 occasions, but mostly I communicate with the world through internet discussions and by putting papers in the Los Alamos quantum physics archive.  I have papers published in several books and one in Foundations of Physics Letters, but my attempts at storming the establishment journals ? Physical Review Letters and Physical Review A ? have met with failure.

Not outright failure, though!   There has been interesting correspondence ? see my article in ?Accountability in Research?.

It is recognised that I am right!  The attitude of the people in the field is epitomised by that of Abner Shimony, to whom I have recently gained an introduction.  He made important contributions to the subject, co-authoring a paper on a modified Bell inequality in 1969 and a comprehensive report in 1978.  He is aware of the loopholes, and hence knows that the existing experiments can be explained by ?local realist? models, but he seems to believe that the quantum theory explanation is in fact the correct one and is expecting future experiments to be conclusive.

Sorry, this was supposed to be about myself but my life and work are not separable!  I shall return briefly to that painful matter of earning a living.  As I said, I do not fit in.  I have not found employment as such, but a couple of years ago we inherited a little money and used it to buy a Franchise.  My husband now supplies sweets to about 150 shops scattered over the South-West corner of Wales, and I assist with the paperwork.  I intend to write books ? I feel compelled to ? but whether or not I can do this at a profit is an open question.  The sweet business is not yet profitable, so we are still dependent on state benefits.

Other biographical details: we have two boisterous dogs, two cats, a very tame Sun Conure (at present helping me on the keyboard!) and, outside, a whole aviary of other birds.  My father, now aged 86, has recently published the history of IFALPA, the airline pilots? association that he helped to create, and two days ago launched his autobiography.  My mother celebrated the event by giving what she hopes will be her last party ? she is not as strong as she used to be.  The children have now (almost) left home, having survived the deprivations of their early years remarkably well.  My daughter has started a career in a medical laboratory in Sheffield, while my son is doing a Computer Science degree at Brighton.  I wonder if some day he might join me in physics, re-establishing the notion of the aether, challenging the very ?facts? of physics!  We think we know the law of gravity, we think we know roughly how much the planets weigh, we think we know what the sun is made of, how it produces its energy, but do we?  Do we yet know anything?

Papers at arXiv