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Tidbits of Inspiration: Quantum Entanglement

April 24, 2012

I read this today.

Don’t worry if you don’t get it.  I’m no physicist.  I don’t really get it either.  My highest education in the field of physics came in my Undergrad career when I took the slightly-more-difficult and rigorous Calc-based Physics as my required Science class instead of the mushy, cake-walk Physics for Dummies class.  (I did well, by the way, getting As in both semesters.  But that was somewhere in the vicinity of a decade ago, or more, now.) 

Anyway, Quantum Entanglement was one of those high-class physics concepts that was mostly beyond the scope of the classes I took.  But it’s a pretty important concept for the development of future technology.  Basically, it means this: two particles can be “entangled”, which means that the state of one effects the state of the other, even if the two are separated by a great distance.  In effect, this can theoretically allow for faster-than-light transfer of information, because changing the state of one instantaneously changes the state of the other.  Or something like that.  I may be misstating this, so if this piques your interest, I suggest you educate yourself from someone who’s actually knowledgeable and an expert.

But what I read today?  It blows that idea out of the water and takes it further than I thought possible.  Basically… in this experiment, there were two pairs of entangled photons: Pair A and Pair B.  One of each of these pairs (one from Pair A and one from Pair B) was sent to separate machines (Machine A and Machine B) that measured the state of the photons.  Machine A and Machine B are independent and do not share information with each other.  The second photon from each entangled pair was at a later time sent to a third machine, Machine C, which decided either to entangle the the two or not to entangle them, and then measures them.  Of critical interest here: the decision made by Machine C to either entangle or not entangle is made after the measurements at each of Machine A and Machine B were made.  Also to note: if Machine C decides not to entangle then you have two independent pairs of entangled photons.  If Machine C instead decides to entangle the second photon of each pair, then you have a chain of four entangled photons: the first photon of pair A is entangled with the second of pair A which is entangled with the second of pair B which is entangled with the first of pair B. 

And the result?  When Machine C decides not to entangle, then there is no measurable correlation between the states of Pair A and Pair B.  But when C decides to entangle, the state of Pair A and Pair B are correlated.

In layman’s terms: the entanglement performed by Machine C extends backwards in time to affect the states of the first photon of each of the newly entangled pairs.  Or in other words: Machine C sent information into the past!  I am probably overstating things somewhat.  But still.  Into the past!

This is truly mind-boggling.

Back to the Future, anyone?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 24, 2012 3:19 pm

    That is some crazy stuff!

    The first time I heard about this (believe it or not) was when playing Mass Effect, haha. They use it on the Normandy, the main character’s ship, which uses all sorts of prototype technology–super expensive quantum entanglement-based communications included. The ships A.I., EDI (voiced by Tricia Helfer), explains a little about how it works, but I kinda zoned out when she did, heh, like, “Whatever, can we use it now?”

    Nice to get another lesson. :)

    • April 24, 2012 5:03 pm

      All the cool kids these days (or at least the Sci Fi ones) seem to be talking about and using Quantum Mechanics in their stories these days. Alas, I am not quite up-to-snuff on this stuff, so I’m hard-pressed to discourse intelligently on these matters in my fiction. But I’m not surprised it’s come up in something like Mass Effect.

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