The concept of quantum entanglement - or "spooky action at a distance" - is one of the wildest assertions of quantum physics. The theory suggests that objects separated by great distances - light-years, even - can affect each other's behavior instantaneously. No less a personage than Albert Einstein famously rejected the notion, which appears to violate core principles of traditional physics.
Quantum entanglement has been mathematically modeled and observed, but never completely proven, in the strictly scientific sense of that term. That may have changed this week, however, with the publication of a study that researchers say proves the existence of quantum entanglement.
Quantum Leap: Info Teleported 60 Miles
As reported by The New York Times, scientists at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands conducted a series of experiments that represent the strongest evidence yet supporting quantum mechanics. The researchers set up two diamonds on opposite ends of the campus - about 1.3 kilometers apart - and blasted each with bursts of microwave and laser energy.
The bursts caused electrons held in each of the "diamond traps" to emit photons that traveled down optical fibers to a recording instrument, set equidistant between the two diamonds. When those photons interacted, they triggered entanglement between the electrons that produced them.
The researchers ran 245 trials of the experiment over the course of 18 days, with the intention of closing particular loopholes in previous studies. Physicists have been running quantum experiments for decades, but the Delft study was set up specifically to be "loophole-free," according to lead researcher Ronald Hanson of the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience.
"These tests have been done since the late '70s but always in the way that additional assumptions were needed," Dr. Hanson told the Times. "Now we have confirmed that there is spooky action at distance."
Bizarre Quantum State Entangles a Record 3,000 Atoms
In the subatomic quantum universe, time runs both forward and backward, and matter doesn't actually exist until it's observed. You'd need a Ph.D. or three to really wrap your head around these things, and even then quantum physics are famously hard to conceptualize.
Happily, in the wake of the Times' initial story, several outlets have issued civilian-friendly breakdowns putting the research into scientific and historical context. If you want to go further down the rabbit hole, Jeffrey Kluger at Time magazine provides a helpful primer.
The Delft study was published this week in the journal Nature.
via The New York Times