Friday, November 21, 2008

Quantum Entanglement

Quantum entanglement is among the strangest realities of quantum mechanics. It means that 2 particles can be connected in such a way that manipulating one can instantaneously affect the other, even when the particles are separated in space - any amount of space. It bothered Albert Einstein, he called it "spooky action at a distance".

For example, defining the spin of an photon will instantaneously render the same spin in its entangled counterpart, even if that counterpart is across the universe. This connection trumps the speed of light and is simply a real and bizarre property of the universe. The Irish physicist John Bell (pictured) resolved Einstein's paradox and proved quantum entanglement. You can read more about him here. Entanglement has lots of important implications including for quantum computing and the possibility of teleportation.

An unavoidable truth of this reality is that our perceptions/intuitions are woefully inadequate. They offer a hopelessly limited and biased picture of the world. In Richard Ford's The Lay of the Land, the narrator Frank Bascombe mentions an Aldous Huxley thought on Einstein that seems applicable. I don't know if Huxley actually said it, but it's worth repeating. And I enjoy the confluence of Ford, Huxley and Einstein.
Aldous Huxley said--after reading Einstein--that the world is not only stranger then we know but a lot stranger then we can know.
(photo credit: Renate Bertlmann, physicsworld.com)