Back in April I blogged briefly about a strange phenomenon known as quantum entanglement- also referred to as “Spooky action at a distance” by Albert Einstein. This is a paradoxical phenomenon in which two particles react seemingly instantaneously, regardless of their distance. It’s a paradox that has never been explained because no one knows how two such particles, separated by great distances, could know what measurement had been performed on the other instantly. Einstein essentially couldn’t support an idea in which a particle could be in two places at the same time.
Obviously, how things work at the quantum level isn’t completely understood. Quantum mechanics deals with particles the size of atoms and electrons, but can’t predict where they’ll be at any given time, or how they’ll behave.
Quantum entanglement is bizarre because it seems to violate the theory of relativity, where nothing can travel faster than the speed of light (about 186,000 miles per second). However there have been many experiments performed to demonstrate that this is a real phenomenon.
Researchers have specialized equipment which can measure the property of a particle of light- or a single photon- in one place, and that measurement will randomly affect what happens to an entangled photon at a different location. It’s as if the measurement dictates the results, or as if the entangled particles know what measurement was performed on the other. It’s interesting that the results aren’t just perfectly synchronized, but anti-correlated: the photon’s spin, position, polarization, speed or momentum will be the opposite of what has been measured at another location.
“Electrons spin in one of two characteristic directions, and if they are entangled, those two electrons’ spins are linked. It’s as if you spun a quarter in New York clockwise, an entangled second coin in Los Angeles would start to spin clockwise. And likewise, if you spun that quarter counter-clockwise, the second coin would shift its spin as well” (Phys.org).
Some other important quantum experiments have coupled thousands of atoms together at room temperature using weak magnets, whereas previously they could only be paired at freezing temperatures (about negative 458 degrees Fahrenheit) with huge magnetic fields. And by using infrared lasers, scientists can now align electrons and other atomic nuclei on a microchip.
There are many significant applications this technology could prove useful in our everyday lives. At first you might think we could communicate instantaneously anywhere in the universe, but, unfortunately, that’s not possible. Nonetheless scientists are working on super powerful quantum computers that will likely provide unhackable security- wouldn’t that be nice! Other possibilities include much improved magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and quantum sensors. Scientists will be able to use this technology to create synthetic solids held together by photons of light rather than chemical reactions. And just think about having access to a worldwide quantum internet!
The possibilities are amazing, but what I find even more amazing is how quantum mechanics relates to the fine-tuning of the universe. Not only has the universe been finely tuned for human existence on a grand scale, but even the tiniest of physical particles can be harnessed for technological advancements. I believe God has provided mankind with resources we never knew existed one hundred years ago, and now we can use those resources to improve our lives. That’s one tiny thing I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving holiday.