OK Halloween is nearly upon us so it’s fair to blog about spooky things.
Some of the more mysterious parts of science are the topic of endless often meaningless chit chat, even by the most eminent of scientists. When it is reported that Einstein had trouble with quantum entanglement and called it ‘spooky action’, that is likely not really an accurate description of the great mans state of mind. He knew very well that what we knew/know about matter and energy is long on hypothesis and short on detail.
The idea that entangled bits of the universe might be in instaneous communication was always a strange, or spooky, notion but not one that Einstein found unsettling as is widely reported. He was a very good conversationalist who found it easy to create metaphorical placeholders for what was the unknown so that the story could continue to be imagined.
The latest experiment
Now another great quantum entanglement experiment just described, better than all those preceeding it, has shown that such entanglement characteristics are real. The latest experiment measured changes in two entangled particles seperated by kilometers of distance across a college campus. The harmonious changes in the two particles was clearly taking place faster than the speed of light so no imagined means in our presently defined universe could explain this, save the quantum entanglement metaphore.
The team led by physicists Bas Hensen and Ronald Hanson placed two parts of one experiment about 1.3 kilometers (0.8 mi.) apart in labs at opposite ends of the Delft campus in the Netherlands 😉 Each lab contained an instrument with a diamond trap designed to hold an electron fast, so that it could be hit with microwave and laser bursts. Those jolts of energy caused both electrons in both labs to emit photons that traveled down optical fibers to a third instrument in a lab equidistant between them. The convergence of those photons caused the entanglement of the two electrons that had produced them.
Once that quantum union had taken place, the rest of the entanglement process played out—with observations or measurements of the spin rate of one electron instantly affecting the other one. And in this case instantly means exactly what it is supposed to mean—which is even faster than it would have taken light to travel the 1.3 km distance.
What’s more, the experiment didn’t work just once. Henson and Hanson ran 245 trials across 220 hours of testing sessions over 18 days, yielding results that were consistent and reliable enough to beat the statistical distance opened by Bell’s two loopholes—effectively closing them both.
Throughout atom-ecology there is a plethora of other evidence for spooky behaviour of matter and energy. Take for example the two notions we use to describe protons. One notion is that we know the mass of the proton with great accuracy. On the other hand we define the proton as being composed of three quarks, the mass of which makes up barely 1% of the mass of the proton. So the fact is clear that a proton is made up of 99% of something for which we don’t have an apt metaphore. WTF Protons???
Not Spooked Yet….
What Einstein and most quantum atom-ecologists have agreed upon is that we have barely any knowledge on the nature of a proton, or for that matter everything inside an atom. Indeed some even question our prevailing ‘atom metaphore.’ What we have are conventions to use convenient placeholders, metaphores, to descibe what we cannot touch or measure in thier native state. I happen to like the emerging metaphore that matter (and energy) are the ingredients in a wonderous quark soup. We call it ‘quark’ soup as about the only thing we think we have half decent notion of is that the soups broth contains some congealed bits we call quarks.
About the one thing that we think we know is that whatever it is that makes up the 99% of matter and energy that is unknown to us only appears to be revealed to us as the bits we do know. What we know best is what we don’t know! So when things appear to be acting ‘spooky’ that’s not the least of the great mystery. Indeed ‘everything’ is always ‘everything else everywhere’, not in some keeping in time sort of way, that some ‘thing’ is what we see it one moment only because we have just seen it so, it is not some ‘thing’ different the next moment. Everything is everything all of the time…. Of course there in we get really over our collective heads as that thing we call ‘time’ is the ‘thing’ we understand the least.
I remember well a moment in my life when a contemporary (and many might say equal) of Einstein sat me down and explained to me that the sooner I got it through my thick skull that the conventional metaphores of physics that I had been taught were know ‘laws of physics’ were almost all derived from the second or third bottle of wine and were mere metaphorical place holders for things they did not understand at the time. That their students taught those metaphores to their students started an inevitable snowballing effect where metaphorical place holders for things that are not know become ‘laws of physics.’
It seems for most living with ‘spooky’ things that are all around us in a great unknown is far too unsettling and so they seek the comfort of a ruling dogma that they only need to remember and recite rather than live happily, as Einstein did, in the great unknown.