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Old 03-15-2009, 05:39 PM
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Any sufficiently advanced technology will appear to be magic

Was Einstein Wrong?: A Quantum Threat to Special Relativity
Entanglement, like many quantum effects, violates some of our deepest intuitions about the world. It may also undermine Einstein's special theory of relativity
By David Z Albert and Rivka Galchen

Our intuition, going back forever, is that to move, say, a rock, one has to touch that rock, or touch a stick that touches the rock, or give an order that travels via vibrations through the air to the ear of a man with a stick that can then push the rock—or some such sequence. This intuition, more generally, is that things can only directly affect other things that are right next to them. If A affects B without being right next to it, then the effect in question must be indirect—the effect in question must be something that gets transmitted by means of a chain of events in which each event brings about the next one directly, in a manner that smoothly spans the distance from A to B. Every time we think we can come up with an exception to this intuition—say, flipping a switch that turns on city street lights (but then we realize that this happens through wires) or listening to a BBC radio broadcast (but then we realize that radio waves propagate through the air)—it turns out that we have not, in fact, thought of an exception. Not, that is, in our everyday experience of the world.

We term this intuition "locality."

Quantum mechanics has upended many an intuition, but none deeper than this one. And this particular upending carries with it a threat, as yet unresolved, to special relativity—a foundation stone of our 21st-century physics.

The Thing from Outer Space
Let's back up a bit. Prior to the advent of quantum mechanics, and indeed back to the very beginnings of scientific investigations of nature, scholars believed that a complete description of the physical world could in principle be had by describing, one by one, each of the world's smallest and most elementary physical constituents. The full story of the world could be expressed as the sum of the constituents' stories.

Quantum mechanics violates this belief.

Real, measurable, physical features of collections of particles can, in a perfectly concrete way, exceed or elude or have nothing to do with the sum of the features of the individual particles. For example, according to quantum mechanics one can arrange a pair of particles so that they are precisely two feet apart and yet neither particle on its own has a definite position. Furthermore, the standard approach to understanding quantum physics, the so-called Copenhagen interpretation—proclaimed by the great Danish physicist Niels Bohr early last century and handed down from professor to student for generations—insists that it is not that we do not know the facts about the individual particles' exact locations; it is that there simply aren't any such facts. To ask after the position of a single particle would be as meaningless as, say, asking after the marital status of the number five. The problem is not epistemological (about what we know) but ontological (about what is).

Physicists say that particles related in this fashion are quantum mechanically entangled with one another. The entangled property need not be location: Two particles might spin in opposite ways, yet with neither one definitely spinning clockwise. Or exactly one of the particles might be excited, but neither is definitely the excited one. Entanglement may connect particles irrespective of where they are, what they are and what forces they may exert on one another—in principle, they could perfectly well be an electron and a neutron on opposite sides of the galaxy. Thus, entanglement makes for a kind of intimacy amid matter previously undreamt of.

Entanglement lies behind the new and exceedingly promising fields of quantum computation and quantum cryptography, which could provide the ability to solve certain problems that are beyond the practical range of an ordinary computer and the ability to communicate with guaranteed security from eavesdropping [see "Quantum Computing with Ions," by Christopher R. Monroe and David J. Wineland; Scientific American, August 2008].

But entanglement also appears to entail the deeply spooky and radically counterintuitive phenomenon called nonlocality—the possibility of physically affecting something without touching it or touching any series of entities reaching from here to there. Nonlocality implies that a fist in Des Moines can break a nose in Dallas without affecting any other physical thing (not a molecule of air, not an electron in a wire, not a twinkle of light) anywhere in the heartland.

The greatest worry about nonlocality, aside from its overwhelming intrinsic strangeness, has been that it intimates a profound threat to special relativity as we know it. In the past few years this old worry—finally allowed inside the house of serious thinking about physics—has become the centerpiece of debates that may finally dismantle, distort, reimagine, solidify or seed decay into the very foundations of physics.

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Old 03-15-2009, 06:08 PM
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Very cool.
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Old 03-15-2009, 10:58 PM
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Is this how we elect politicians? Or how the market moves?
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Old 03-16-2009, 01:39 AM
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You really can "Pitchfork" your elected officials from the comfort and security of your own domicile?

'Kinda sounds like Santeria.

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