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Is There Really Anything to Quantum Entanglement ?
(Is There Really Quantum Theory ?)


January 10, 2023

The buzz in Physics these days is no longer atomic bombs nor even Hadron colliders but something perhaps more intriguing - and fortunately less destructive in nature - which regards so-called quantum theory and in particular goes by the phrase “quantum entanglement”.

Anything with the word “quantum” is by no means something available on the store shelves or a thing you can order - it is strictly R&D, at least at this point.  But is there anything to it at all ?  How did the ideas of quantum mechanics, and especially quantum entanglement, come about ?  For what reason, or what benefit ?

Since quantum entanglement appears to becoming a main principle or even a “backbone” to quantum mechanics it means all we have to do is describe the concept called “quantum entanglement” - quantum mechanics or quantum theory does not really stand for much else.1  

If you have ever viewed the episode PBS NOVA’s “Einstein’s Quantum Riddle” you will repeatedly see a concept demonstrated over and over again. There are two cups each covering a ball some distance apart.  The demonstrator uncovers one cup revealing a bright ball and somehow the other cup also lifts up also revealing a bright ball (sort of like magic).  This is repeated all through the episode so that if there is one point to get across, it is to convey what the phrase “quantum entanglement” is even trying to say.  In more scientific words, it is that some action at one location is actually linked - or correlated - to the same action at another location, and the two actions are “entangled”.  Furthermore, it does not matter at what distance the entanglement occurs.  It can occur at any distance.  This is easily considered to be mere nonsense in the classical sense of physics of space and time (and our common sense) but we want to consider applying this concept all the way down to the subatomic level, such as an electron.  They often call this the quantum realm.  (Just a name so you realize the context is related to subatomic particles).



A demonstration of quantum entanglement.  Lifting a cup and revealing a bright ball on the left simultaneously results in revealing a bright ball on the right.  (The bright glowing balls imply a context of the quantum realm, or subatomic particles).   {PBS NOVA}

Now we might examine the momentum or spin of an electron (or induce a momentum) and wonder if what we do to an electron at this particular location will duplicate itself at some other location.  If this occurs, then the two particles are called “entangled”.  It becomes difficult to describe in words what is actually taking place and scientists who take up this type of research find themselves fumbling for a new language and new mathematics to make sense of their findings.  This explains why the NOVA episode keeps repeating the demonstration with the two bright balls and cups.  Otherwise, the phenomenon becomes lost within the jumble of new language and math.  Einstein called this entanglement theory, “spooky action at a distance”.

From a candid standpoint, it must be realized that large distances are not so easily bridged by our current standards of knowledge.  When we peer through a telescope at a star in our Milky Way Galaxy that is perhaps 1000 light years away, what we see is already 1000 years old.  The light from the star we view through a telescope can only travel as fast as the speed of light, and at that rate, whatever is happening to the star (changing color, for instance) will not reach us until 1000 years later.  Everything we see in the distant sky is “old information”.  We are never really up-to-date about anything at all in our universe.  Somewhat disheartening.  At least disappointing.

But with a concept of quantum entanglement, what happens here can also be happening way out there at the same time (and vice versa), such as communication.  Now we are related to the whole Universe in the present.

With our current knowledge, if an astronaut happens to voyage to a distant location in our galaxy, say 1000 light years away, his first “Hello” over his radio will not reach us until 1000 years later.  The radio transmission can only travel as fast as the speed of light.  No soul on Earth has managed to live a 1000 years yet, and so it would not be much of a conversation.  At larger distances, the speed of light now becomes something too slow.  And we have only scratched the surface.  The span of our Milky Way Galaxy is on the order of 100,000 light years across.  Our neighboring galaxy, the Andromeda Galaxy, is 2.5 million light years from us.  And the other side of the Universe is a distance of over 13 billion light years.  How will we ever communicate with anyone at such distances ?

The concept of quantum entanglement can bridge these large distances so that communication is simultaneously occurring at any distance.  Therefore, we can be  related to the whole Universe in the present.  This matches our intuition, and reasoning.  No one really thinks they are “out-of-it” with the Universe or that they are “behind the times” and always “out-of-date”.  The entanglement theory fills-in this missing information about how we should view the physical world.  Physicists’ main concern from an early time was that we have a correct and complete viewpoint of our physical world.   Concepts such as motion, gravity, and magnetism have shaped our viewpoint of the physical world and allowed everyone to function and benefit from it.  When the concept of quantum entanglement was being batted around during the 1930s, Einstein intervened that “quantum theory appears to be incomplete” which means there is work ahead to resolve the puzzle of quantum entanglement.  To save the concept of quantum entanglement is to save quantum mechanics.



Niels Bohr and Einstein debating quantum theory.  Einstein appears rather relaxed and could be passing the subject’s complexity only to encourage his fellow colleagues to take up further study.  {Solvay Conference, 1927}

As a side note, discussions claiming that Einstein was wrong about Quantum Theory and Neils Bohr correct could be mere nonsense.  Einstein had plenty of credit under his belt due to his work on relativity and didn’t need anymore achievements.  His ideas on relativity needed to “settle in” before considering taking off on something too obscure which could possibly demean the theory of relativity.  If he made any antagonistic remarks to his fellow scientists, it was to get them going (get them motivated) to take up the work on quantum physics.  In fact, his remarks caused Northern Irish physicist John Stewart Bell to devise a test for quantum entanglement which was later carried out by John Clauser and his colleagues2 in 1972.  The tests showed that there may actually be something to quantum entanglement.  Einstein’s style was never to be wrong.  His style did, however, possess some character.

The quantum entanglement experiment at UC Berkeley in the 1970s.



1.  A fundamental feature of Quantum Theory discusses the certainty or probability of an event in the subatomic regime.  In short, Quantum Mechanics is full of probability.  But then it is reasoned that we can know this probability.  Quantum entanglement will most likely always have this probability feature to it.  


2.  John Clauser, along with Michael Horne, Abner Shimony, and Richard Holt, transformed Bell’s 1964 mathematical theorem into a experimental prediction now called the Clauser–Horne–Shimony–Holt (CHSH) inequality.  At the University of California Berkeley they were the first to prove experimentally that two widely separated particles can be entangled.

At larger distances, the speed of light now becomes something too slow.
Physicists’ main concern from an early time was that we have a correct and complete viewpoint of our physical world.