Quantum entanglement is so bizarre that Albert Einstein refused to accept it as true for many years.
(TMU) — The discoveries made over the last century by physicists studying quantum mechanics—some of which suggest that reality is only made certain by the presence of a conscious observer—is nothing short of mind-blowing. One particular concept, entanglement, was so out there that Albert Einstein called it “spooky action at a distance” and for many years refused to accept it as true.
But now, a new experiment has scientists believing that quantum entanglement doesn’t just apply to spatial gaps, but time itself.
Einstein famously battled with physicist Niel Bohr over the predictions and theories of quantum mechanics, such as the wave function. He also corresponded with Erwin Schrödinger—yes, of Schrödinger’s cat—and in one of his 1935 letters, Einstein stated: “I know of course how the hocus pocus works mathematically. But I do not like such a theory.”
The principle of entanglement held that it was impossible to independently describe two quantum systems that had once been united. One influenced the other instantaneously across vast distances, which meant that in some cases it appeared as though information was being transmitted and received faster than the speed of light, which Einstein believed was impossible.
Critically, these two quantum systems co-existed at the same time. But is it possible that “spooky action” can take place between systems from different time periods?
This is the shocking suggestion by a team of physicists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who believe they have used “entanglement swapping” techniques to show that quantum nonlocality also includes temporal nonlocality.
In other words, quantum systems can communicate instantly with one another not only over vast distances of space but vast distances of time.
The experiment involved measuring the polarization of pairs of photons and tracking their entangled relations.
The results showed “temporally nonlocal” correlations between particles. In other words, particles that never existed contemporaneously in space can still share an entangled bond over time. This suggests the possibility of a much more vast and deeper quantum connective tissue to the universe that transcends space-time.
The implications of this are stunning. As ScienceAlertnoted:
“Prima facie, it seems as troubling as saying that the polarity of starlight in the far-distant past – say, greater than twice Earth’s lifetime – nevertheless influenced the polarity of starlight falling through your amateur telescope this winter.
Even more bizarrely: maybe it implies that the measurements carried out by your eye upon starlight falling through your telescope this winter somehow dictated the polarity of photons more than 9 billion years old.”
The anomalies of quantum physics troubled Einstein until the day he died. It seems now we’re getting even greater detail on why he was so disturbed by what scientists saw as they pulled back the curtain on the nature of existence.
The results of these experiments pose vexing questions that tear at the very fabric of reality: Could it be that our observations in the present are influencing events from the distant past, such as the Big Bang itself, and vice versa?
Two of history’s greatest physicists argued for decades over one of the deepest mysteries of quantum mechanics. Today, their successors are opening new fronts in the battle to understand ‘spooky action at a distance’, writes Robyn Arianrhod.
It all began in October 1927, at the Fifth Solvay Congress in Brussels. It was Louis de Broglie’s first congress, and he had been “full of pleasure and curiosity” at the prospect of meeting Einstein, his teenage idol. Now 35, de Broglie happily reported: “I was particularly struck by his mild and thoughtful expression, by his general kindness, by his simplicity, and by his friendliness.”
Back in 1905, Einstein had helped pioneer quantum theory with his revolutionary discovery that light has the characteristics of both a wave and a particle. Niels Bohr later explained this as “complementarity”: depending on how you observe light, you will see either wave or particle behaviour. As for de Broglie, he had taken Einstein’s idea into even stranger territory in his 1924 PhD thesis: if light waves could behave like particles, then perhaps particles of matter could also behave like waves! After all, Einstein had shown that energy and matter were interchangeable, via E = mc2.
Einstein was the first to publicly support de Broglie’s bold hypothesis. By 1926, Erwin Schrödinger had developed a mathematical formula to describe such “matter waves”, which he pictured as some kind of rippling sea of smeared-out particles. But Max Born showed that Schrödinger’s waves are, in effect, “waves of probability”. They encode the statistical likelihood that a particle will show up at a given place and time based on the behaviour of many such particles in repeated experiments. When the particle is observed, something strange appears to happen. The wave-function “collapses” to a single point, allowing us to see the particle at a particular position.
Born’s probability wave also fitted neatly with Werner Heisenberg’s recently proposed “uncertainty principle”. Heisenberg had concluded that in the quantum world it is not possible to obtain exact information about both the position and the momentum of a particle at the same time. He imagined the very act of measuring a quantum particle’s position, say by shining a light on it, gave it a jolt that changed its momentum, so the two could never be precisely measured at once.
When the world’s leading physicists gathered in Brussels in 1927, this was the strange state of quantum physics.
The official photograph of the participants shows 28 besuited, sober-looking men, and one equally serious woman, Marie Curie. But fellow physicist Paul Ehrenfest’s private photo of intellectual adversaries Bohr and Einstein captures the spirit of the conference: Bohr looks intensely thoughtful, hand on his chin, while Einstein is leaning back looking relaxed and dreamy. This gentle, contemplative picture belies the depth of the famous clash between these two intellectual titans – a clash that hinged on the extraordinary concept of quantum entanglement.
At the congress, Bohr presented his view of quantum mechanics for the first time. Dubbed the Copenhagen interpretation, in honour of Bohr’s home city, it combined his own idea of particle-wave complementarity with Born’s probability waves and Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.
Most of the attendees readily accepted this view, but Einstein was perturbed. It was one thing for groups of particles to be ruled by chance; indeed Einstein had explained the jittery motion of pollen in apparently still water (dubbed Brownian motion) by invoking the random group behaviour of water molecules. Individual molecules, though, would still be ruled by Newton’s laws of motion; their exact movements could in principle be calculated.
By contrast, the Copenhagen theory held that subatomic particles were ruled by chance.
Einstein began his attack in the time-honoured tradition of reductio ad absurdum – arguing that the logical extension of quantum theory would lead to an absurd outcome.
After several sleepless nights, Bohr found a flaw in Einstein’s logic. Einstein did not retreat: he was sure he could convince Bohr of the absurdity of this strange new theory. Their debate flowed over into the Sixth Solvay Congress in 1930, and on until Einstein felt he finally had the pieces in place to checkmate Bohr at the seventh congress in 1933. Two weeks before that, however, Nazi persecution forced Einstein to flee
to the United States. The planned checkmate would have to wait.
When it came, it was deceptively simple. In 1935 at Princeton, Einstein and two collaborators, Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen, published what became known as the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox, or EPR for short. Podolsky wrote up the thought experiment in a mathematical form, but let me illustrate it with jellybeans.
Suppose you have a red and a green jellybean in a box. The box seals off the jellybeans from all others: technically speaking, the pair form an “isolated system”, and they are “entangled” in the sense that the colour of one jellybean gives information about the other. You can see this by asking a friend to close her eyes and pick a jellybean at random. If she picks red, you know the remaining sweet is green.
This is key to EPR: by knowing the colour of your friend’s jellybean, you can know the colour of your own without “disturbing” it by looking at it. But in trying to bypass the supposed observer-effect in this way, EPR had also inadvertently uncovered the strange idea of “entanglement”. The term was coined by Schrödinger after he read the EPR paper .
So now apply this technique to two electrons. Instead of a colour, each one has an intrinsic property called “spin”. Imagine something like the spin axis of a gyroscope. If two electrons are prepared together in the lab so that they have zero total spin, then the principle of conservation of angular momentum means that if one of the electrons has its spin axis up, the other electron’s axis must be down. The electrons are entangled, just as the jellybeans were.
With jellybeans, the colour of your friend’s chosen sweet is fixed, whether or not she actually observes it. With electrons, by contrast, until your friend makes her observation, quantum theory simply says there is a 50% chance its spin is up, and 50% it is down.
The satellite Micius, launched from Jiuquan, China, in August last year, is unlike any other in the sky. While other satellites communicate with Earth using physics worked out by James Clerk Maxwell 150 years ago, Micius is the world’s first quantum-enabled satellite. And now, it has conclusively proved its quantum credentials.
For the first time, scientists have transmitted photons, or particles of light, that are “entangled” with one another from space to Earth. This entanglement, dubbed “spooky action at a distance” by Albert Einstein, is a uniquely quantum-mechanical phenomenon in which the behaviour of one particle is mysteriously choreographed with another – even though the particles can be at opposite ends of the universe. Manipulating one will instantly affect its entangled partner.
These new results pave the way for space-based quantum communication, a technology that promises to provide truly secure communication across the globe.
Every time we interact with our online bank, for example, the messages sent back and forth between computers are encrypted. People are essentially relying on the extreme unwieldiness of large numbers to keep their messages safe. But being able to encode and decode encrypted messages requires the sharing of secret keys – certain specific numbers that are used in the scrambling and unscrambling process.
If these keys were to be intercepted in the sharing process, a third party would be able to decode messages sent with that key and secrecy would be lost. It’s likely no one would know that security had been compromised until it was too late.
Quantum mechanics to the rescue
Physicists have shown, however, that the unusual properties of quantum particles can be used to share encryption keys in such a way that any interception of the keys by a third party would be immediately evident. If tampering was detected, keys could then be resent until one arrived intact and verifiably trustworthy.
This tamper-proofing requires the sharing of entangled particles and relies on the fact that entanglement is a peculiarly delicate phenomenon. Any attempt to interfere with the entangled particles immediately disrupts the entanglement, producing tell-tale signs that a message has been tampered with. And the magic of quantum mechanics is that this effect arises as a fundamental property of nature and cannot be circumvented.
Entangled photons can be created by shining a laser through special types of crystal. To be able to use these particles for communication, the trick is then to get them to the receiving stations where they are needed.
But herein lies the problem. In ground-based experiments, photons have to be sent either through the air or through optical fibres. Both of these methods are beset with losses — photons are either scattered by molecules as they travel through the air, or they leak out as they travel along optical fibres.
Unfortunately, sources of entangled photons do not produce many per second and losing precious photons en route rapidly downgrades our ability to do “quantum stuff”. Thus, ground-based experiments with entangled photons have been limited to distances of up to a few hundred kilometres.
The advantage of space
But this is where the Chinese satellite comes in. Stationed between 500km and 2000km above the Earth, Micius is an orbiting factory of entangled photons, sent to Earth in two beams.
Despite starting so far away, the beams generated on board have a relatively easy ride to Earth – only their last 10km or so is through the atmosphere. The rest of the journey is through what is essentially the vacuum of space. Thus, the photon pairs generated on Micius can be shared between two distant points on the Earth’s surface, while only being subject to the losses associated with travelling a small fraction of that distance through air.
The new study, published in Science, demonstrates that one can reliably send two beams of entangled photons from Micius to base stations some 1,200km apart, smashing previous records.
Moreover, the researchers performed a test (Bell’s inequality test) on the detected photons to show that they were still entangled – despite their journey from space. This is crucial since only entangled photons possess the ability to unlock the potential of quantum communication.
The next steps for Micius on the path to quantum key distribution will be to demonstrate a series of quantum phenomena, including quantum teleportation, in which quantum states such as velocity can be transferred between base stations. With other space-based quantum experiments sure to follow, these results from Micius may well come to be seen as a landmark in the development of a quantum internet.
There are, however, some concerns about the geopolitical context in which these experiments occur. China clearly understands the strategic benefits of the information security that quantum communications might bring. But let’s not also forget that these experiments mark an exciting first foray into testing quantum mechanics, one of our most fundamental scientific theories born from our studies of the subatomic world, over distances the size of a planet.
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Three different studies, done by different teams of scientists proved something really extraordinary. But when a new research connected these 3 discoveries, something shocking was realized, something hiding in plain sight.
Human emotion literally shapes the world around us. Not just our perception of the world, but reality itself.
In the first experiment, human DNA, isolated in a sealed container, was placed near a test subject. Scientists gave the donor emotional stimulus and fascinatingly enough, the emotions affected their DNA in the other room.
In the presence of negative emotions the DNA tightened. In the presence of positive emotions the coils of the DNA relaxed.
The scientists concluded that “Human emotion produces effects which defy conventional laws of physics.”
In the second, similar but unrelated experiment, different group of scientists extracted Leukocytes (white blood cells) from donors and placed into chambers so they could measure electrical changes.
In this experiment, the donor was placed in one room and subjected to “emotional stimulation” consisting of video clips, which generated different emotions in the donor.
The DNA was placed in a different room in the same building. Both the donor and his DNA were monitored and as the donor exhibited emotional peaks or valleys (measured by electrical responses), the DNA exhibited the IDENTICAL RESPONSES AT THE EXACT SAME TIME.
There was no lag time, no transmission time. The DNA peaks and valleys EXACTLY MATCHED the peaks and valleys of the donor in time.
The scientists wanted to see how far away they could separate the donor from his DNA and still get this effect. They stopped testing after they separated the DNA and the donor by 50 miles and STILL had the SAME result. No lag time; no transmission time.
The DNA and the donor had the same identical responses in time. The conclusion was that the donor and the DNA can communicate beyond space and time.
The third experiment proved something pretty shocking!
Scientists observed the effect of DNA on our physical world.
Light photons, which make up the world around us, were observed inside a vacuum. Their natural locations were completely random.
Human DNA was then inserted into the vacuum. Shockingly the photons were no longer acting random. They precisely followed the geometry of the DNA.
Scientists who were studying this, described the photons behaving “surprisingly and counter-intuitively”. They went on to say that “We are forced to accept the possibility of some new field of energy!”
They concluded that human DNA literally shape the behavior of light photons that make up the world around us!
So when a new research was done, and all of these 3 scientific claims were connected together, scientists were shocked.
They came to a stunning realization that if our emotions affect our DNA and our DNA shapes the world around us, than our emotions physically change the world around us.
Entanglement is one of the strangest phenomena predicted by quantum mechanics, the theory that underlies most of modern physics. It says that two particles can be so inextricably connected that the state of one particle can instantly influence the state of the other, no matter how far apart they are.
Just one century ago, entanglement was at the center of intense theoretical debate, leaving scientists like Albert Einstein baffled. Today, however, entanglement is accepted as a fact of nature and is actively being explored as a resource for future technologies including quantum computers, quantum communication networks, and high-precision quantum sensors.
Entanglement is also one of nature’s most elusive phenomena. Producing entanglement between particles requires that they start out in a highly ordered state, which is disfavored by thermodynamics, the process that governs the interactions between heat and other forms of energy. This poses a particularly formidable challenge when trying to realize entanglement at the macroscopic scale, among huge numbers of particles.
“The macroscopic world that we are used to seems very tidy, but it is completely disordered at the atomic scale. The laws of thermodynamics generally prevent us from observing quantum phenomena in macroscopic objects,” said Paul Klimov, a graduate student in the University of Chicago’s Institute for Molecular Engineering and lead author of new research on quantum entanglement. The institute is a partnership between UChicago and Argonne National Laboratory.
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