Skip to main content

Tangled up in Quantum

Scientists perform experiments in order to test a theory. If enough data is generated to support a claim, that claim is usually declared true. But what if the experiment continuously gave a predicted result only because the scientist was on earth? Perhaps a different outcome occurs in space.

This is the argument behind a recent proposal to launch a mission called Space-QUEST (Quantum Entanglement for Space Experiments). Anton Zeilinger of the University of Vienna submitted the proposal to the European Space Agency. He wants to perform quantum entanglement experiments for the first time in space, at the International Space Station (ISS).

Quantum entanglement describes the complex way particles are linked together, such that one cannot exist without the other, regardless of distance. Superposition, the ability to get two different but related measurements, is central to an understanding of quantum entanglement.

According to quantum theory, measurements made on linked particles, no matter how far away, are instantaneously influenced by one another. Einstein notably poked fun at the idea of instantaneous influence, labeling it "sooky action at a distance", as it violated certain predictions of special relativity. He disliked and dismissed quantum entanglement entirely. This is summed up in the EPR paradox, a thought experiment by Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen.

But numerous short-distance experiments on earth have agreed with quantum theory and provided strong evidence of quantum entanglement. The experiments involved sending two entangled particles, for example photons, to separately located scientists, who then take measurements. Despite this, there are some who believe that the results are a false positive. Quantum entanglement may only work on earth, where distance is limited. Maybe something different happens to entangled photons over enormous ground-to-earth distances. Zeilinger is determined to find out.

Since he's already proven that single photons can be detected on the ground by bouncing them off orbiting satellites, he plans to separate two entangled particles at a distance never before tested, one particle to an orbiting astronaut in space (At the ISS), and the other somewhere on the ground, here on Earth. Maybe Einstein will be proven right.

And yes, the title alludes to tangled up in blue (arguably my favorite Dylan song).

Comments

Popular Posts

How 4,000 Physicists Gave a Vegas Casino its Worst Week Ever

What happens when several thousand distinguished physicists, researchers, and students descend on the nation’s gambling capital for a conference? The answer is "a bad week for the casino"—but you'd never guess why.

Ask a Physicist: Phone Flash Sharpie Shock!

Lexie and Xavier, from Orlando, FL want to know:
"What's going on in this video? Our science teacher claims that the pain comes from a small electrical shock, but we believe that this is due to the absorption of light. Please help us resolve this dispute!"

The Science of Ice Cream: Part One

Even though it's been a warm couple of months already, it's officially summer. A delicious, science-filled way to beat the heat? Making homemade ice cream.

Over at Physics@Home there's an easy recipe for homemade ice cream. But what kind of milk should you use to make ice cream? And do you really need to chill the ice cream base before making it? Why do ice cream recipes always call for salt on ice?