Quantum Mechanics are very, very odd. Everything around us behaves in a strange way at a sub-atomic level. Two far-distant objects can communicate with each other instantaneously, in an effect which Einstein named “Spooky Action”. The German physicist gave it this name because he didn't believe that this theoretical effect was possible, since there is nothing in the universe which can travel faster than light. But now some scientists have been trying to prove the genius wrong. And they have succeeded.
Einstein had no time for Quantum Theory, which has finally been shown to be a pillar of modern physics. He thought that a theory in which uncertainty reigned, where the only way of predicting an outcome was to predict all of the total possibilities which might result from a particular premise, made no sense at all. In short, he did not accept a universe where cats could be both alive and dead at one and the same time. For him, the cosmos should be ruled by orderly and predictable laws. There was no place for chance. The famous phrase “God doesn't play dice” arose out of this.
But convoluted quantum theory predicts that the observation of an object can affect another at any given moment, even if it is at the other end of the universe, without having anything at all to connect the one with the other. This strange effect is called Quantum “Entangling”. We have known about this for a long time on a theoretical level, but some scientists, with a great deal of patience, have transferred it from paper to the laboratory.
The team comprises researchers at the University of Delft, together with the ICREA Group based at the Catalan Institute of Photonic Sciences and has managed, no less, to show that Einstein was wrong by showing that 2 electrons separated by a distance of more than a kilometre not to say to a distance of infinity and beyond) can maintain an invisible and instantaneous connection, just as the Sinc Agency explains.
How have they done it? Simplifying dramatically, the scientists “entangled” 2 electrons trapped inside 2 diamonds, which were in laboratories at a distance of 1.280 km from each other after measuring the orientation of their spin (or rotation). It turns out that an electron, just like a coin when we toss it in the air, can rotate in two directions (up and down). Quantum “Entangling” posits that the measurement of one electron's rotation will define the spin of the either, even if they are hugely distant from one another. In order to carry out the experiment they equipped themselves with a pair of “Quantum Dice”, designed by ICREA, which produced an extremely pure random bit for every measurement taken during the experiment. It's explained here, in Laika's Orbit style, with drawings.
To sum up, the scientists proved that the rotation of the electrons was the same and that modifying it for one, modified it for the other automatically. That is to say, these two particles had communicated in some way, and they had done it at faster than the speed of light. The measurements were made so rapidly that there was no time for the particles to transmit the information to each other, not even with a signal at travelling at a such a speed. Our universe is such a terrifying and strange place.
But “entanglement” is not the only bizarre thing in the Quantum world. Another effect - known as superposition – comes to complicate sub-atomic reality a little more. It involves a phenomenon which allows a physical system, say, an atom or a photon, to exist in two or more quantum states until they form in combination yet another valid state.
However, these effects or not observable in the real world. A lost sock cannot be in two places at once (if we discount the quantum properties of the humble washing-machine). So, what is the scale at which these strange events begin to occur? If we design an experiment under ideal conditions, will we be able to observe these effects with larger objects? A cat, for example?
Yes, yet again the conversation turns to Schrodinger's famed Cat. His celebrated paradox invites us to imagine a cat in a box (so far, so normal) to which is added (here comes the strange bit) a radioactive material which has a 50% chance of leaking and killing the cat. The idea is, unless we open the box and look at the cat, the cat is both alive and dead at the same time. The state of the cat has “superposed” on that of the radioactive material.
In recent years, physicists have created “superposed” states using inanimate objects of ever increasing size, from electrons to photons to atoms, molecules and even minute mechanical systems. Now their ambition is another leap forward and to attempt this with a biological system. Much as scientists love cats, they have replaced them with a bacterium.
The idea – which comes from researchers at Purdue University in Indiana and Tshingua in Beijing – is to place the microbe in two places at once. Sound like magic to you? For sure, but it will be a simple conjurer's trick compared to what quantum mechanics will bring in the future.