Physicists have confirmed that distant particles actually can affect each other and act in odd ways that cannot be clarified by common sense or, for the most part, the laws of physics.
This strange conduct is what's named as quantum 'spookiness', and despite of a lot of experiments proving its presence, this is the first time it's been confirmed with a loophole-free test, showing that Albert Einstein was mistaken about quantum mechanics.
According to quantum theory, a particle's nature does not exist until it's measured, which means it just hangs out in a superposition state up until someone measure it. Particles can also be tangled, which means that they're intimately connected together, and their nature is only defined by being the opposite of the other one.
So that means when you calculate a particle, you're not only finding its nature in that moment, you're also determining the nature of its entangled partner. And that definition occurs promptly, no matter how far apart the particles are. It's for this reason that Einstein, and many other physicists, have disbelieved the presence of quantum entanglement, as it basically means that information is passing between the two entangled particles faster than the speed of light (like we said, freaking weird).
This newest experiment involved physicists from the Netherlands, the UK, and Spain, who entangled pairs of electrons separated by a distance of 1.3 km. Headed by Delft University of Technology scientist B. Hensen from the Netherlands, the team then calculated one of the electrons while a group instantaneously studied whether its partner was influenced.
This is a take on the classic 'Bell experiment' created in the 1960s by Irish physicist John Bell to check whether there was a more practical clarification for entanglement. According to the rational view of the world, after a certain distance, the correlation should terminate to exist as the particles are too far away to link with each other. But according to quantum theory, there will be no distance boundary.
Over the past 30 years or so the Bell experiment has been tried many times, continuously showing that quantum theory is real. But in all those experiments there have been ambiguities - generally the fact that most scientists entangle photons, which are difficult to identify and measure due to their super-fast nature, so as many as 80% are lost before being measured, making fallouts indecisive.
In an effort to close that loophole, many physicists use entangled ions as an alternative of photons. But this unlocks another loophole, because these ions are not kept far enough apart to rule out that they are not somehow affecting each other by communicating information generally - in other words, at a rate less than the speed of light.
The new experiment achieved to close both those loopholes by uniting the benefits of photons with electrons, which are easier to measure. To do this, the team entangled the spin of two electrons with two different photons. Those two electrons were situated in labs 1.3 km apart, while the photons were sent off to a third position and then individually entangled with each other.
"As soon as the photons are entangled, BINGO, so too are the two original electron spins, seated in vastly distant labs, reports science writer Zeeya Merali over at FQXi blogs. "The team performed 245 trials of the experiment, comparing entangled electrons, and report that Bell’s bound is violated."
So that means that there in fact is some weird quantum behaviour going on, and the outcomes cannot be blamed on some kind of loophole.
"Our experiment comprehends the first Bell test that concurrently addresses both the detection loophole and the locality loophole," the authors write over at arXiv, where they've published the early results. They're now filtering the experiment for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
"It’s a very nice and beautiful experiment, and one can only applaud the group for that," Anton Zeilinger, the head of a rival team at the University of Vienna in Austria, who was not involved in the study, told Jacob Aron over at New Scientist. "I suppose they have upgraded the experiment, and by the time it is published they will have better data ... There is no doubt it will survive inspection."
But there's another reason that people have been so acute to perform a loophole-free Bell test. It's also a gigantic step towards quantum cryptography, which is a hypothesised un-hackable security system that rests on on entangled particles for confirmation.
As you can visualize, such a system would be extremely beneficial for a world frantic for better Internet. And right now it appears that Hensen and his associates may have at last nailed it. We're eager to see what happens next.
This post was written by Usman Abrar. To contact the writer write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Facebook