Quantum ‘spookiness’ passes toughest test yet
It’s a bad day both for Albert Einstein and for hackers. The most rigorous test of quantum theory ever carried out has confirmed that the ‘spooky action at a distance’ that the German physicist famously hated — in which manipulating one object instantaneously seems to affect another, far away one — is an inherent part of the quantum world.
In quantum mechanics, objects can be in multiple states simultaneously: for example, an atom can be in two places, or spin in opposite directions, at once. Measuring an object forces it to snap into a well-defined state. Furthermore, the properties of different objects can become ‘entangled’, meaning that their states are linked: when a property of one such object is measured, the properties of all its entangled twins become set, too.
Zeilinger also notes that there remains one last, somewhat philosophical loophole, first identified by Bell himself: the possibility that hidden variables could somehow manipulate the experimenters’ choices of what properties to measure, tricking them into thinking quantum theory is correct.
That would be the evolutionary psychology version, right?: The physicists were naturally selected back on the African savannah to see things this way, to spread their selfish genes. There is no way for a hairless primate to know how things actually are.
Leifer is less troubled by this ‘freedom-of-choice loophole’, however. “It could be that there is some kind of superdeterminism, so that the choice of measurement settings was determined at the Big Bang,” he says. “We can never prove that is not the case, so I think it’s fair to say that most physicists don’t worry too much about this.” More.
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Our friendly local physicist Rob Sheldon notes,
Quantum spookiness is only spooky to materialists–like Einstein himself. For physicists like Aristotle, you would expect there to be purpose and order and long-distance correlations. For example, if you made a machine to observe at 500nm wavelength, it wouldn’t be spooky to find that there was a source of 500nm light nearby that illuminated the laboratory. They are both “entangled” by design.
Not to worry, an American circuit court is going to strike that down soon.
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