Albert Einstein is often revered as a religious icon of our secular society, a genius rebel who came from nowhere to change the prevailing "scientific paradigm" using mathematics few can understand, and got away with it. An older and much brighter version of James Dean. What is much less widely known is that fairly early on in his career Einstein himself, much like John Kerry today, became "the man", the authority figure dogmatically imposing his older version of reality on a younger generation, despite the abundant empirical evidence in favor of the younger view.
I'm referring of course to Quantum Mechanics, which Einstein never accepted and which he spent a good forty years trying to refute without success. Einstein was a very bright guy, and he and two colleagues came up with an ingenious thought-experiment which did seem to refute it, the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen experiment. Unfortunately for the conventional dogma represented by Einstein, a version of the experiment was performed and Quantum Mechanics won out, with certain "classical" ideas like the "principle of locality" having to be thrown out the window. Variations on the experiment have been performed many times, confirming Quantum Mechanics every time, and the results (often termed "spooky action-at-a-distance") form the basis of the nascent field of Quantum Encryption among other things. There seems to be a very real sense in which everything in the universe is related to everything else, whether nearby in space-time or not. What that really means nobody knows exactly.
Still the idea that things are all somehow related doesn't seem to be too much to swallow on its own. However, Quantum Mechanics still seems to point strongly to the conclusion that, at bottom, reality is nothing but complete randomness, a conclusion which physicists in the Einstein tradition ("God doesn't play dice with the universe.") are extremely reluctant to believe. They have concocted an alternate theory, one in which there is a deep order beneath the quantum events after all, but an order which is not detected by experiments because it is in its essence hidden to experiment (ed: Isn't that called String Theory?). Such theories are called hidden-variables theories. A new experiment has just shown—yet again—that Quantum Mechanics appears to be right and its detractors wrong. Worse, not only must we throw out locality and the idea of an underlying order, but apparently even more cold water has been thrown on the eternal hope that reality exists when we're not looking at it.
Now physicists from Austria claim to have performed an experiment that rules out a broad class of hidden-variables theories that focus on realism -- giving the uneasy consequence that reality does not exist when we are not observing it (Nature 446 871).