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Interpreting weak value amplification with a toy realist model

Sinclair, J.Spierings, D.Brodutch, A.Steinberg, A.M. Centre for Quantum Information and Quantum Control,
Institute for Optical Sciences,
Department of Physics,
University of Toronto,
Ontario, Canada

The Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering,
Ontario, Canada

Canadian Institute For Advanced Research,
MaRS Centre,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
2018 Physics

Constructing an ontology for quantum theory is challenging, in part due to unavoidable measurement back-action. The Aharonov-Albert-Vaidman weak measurement formalism provides a method to predict measurement results (weak values) in a regime where back-action is negligible. The weak value appears analogous to a classical conditional mean and in fact, has a number of features that further suggest it may be interpreted as being related to some underlying ontological model.

However, the ontology appears bizarre since the weak values are complex and unbounded. Here, we study weak values in the context of a recent quantum optical experiment involving two-photon inter- actions. The results of the experiment are reinterpreted within a ‘stochastic optics’ model of light. The model is based on standard (Maxwell) electromag- netic theory, supplemented by stochastic fluctuations of the electromagnetic fields.

We show that the conditional means of the electric field intensities cor- respond to the experimentally observed weak values. This is a provocative result, as it suggests that at least within this experiment, the weak value gives us information about the average of an ontological quantity (the intensity). We study the breakdown of the stochastic optics model, which occurs outside the experimentally probed regime, and in particular in the limit where the weak value predicts ‘anomalous’ results.


The article was published in: arXiv:1808.09951v2, 27Mar2019

Full article

This work was supported (in part) by the Fetzer Franklin Fund of the John E. Fetzer Memorial Trust.