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Quantum entanglement isn't only spooky, you can't avoid it

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June 10, 2013

Entanglement mixes you with everything (Photo: ShutterStock)

Entanglement mixes you with everything (Photo: ShutterStock)

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Quantum entanglement is the key to quantum computing, cryptography, and numerous other real-world applications of quantum mechanics. It is also one of the strangest phenomena in the Universe, overcoming barriers of space and time and knitting the entire cosmos into an integrated whole. Scientists have long thought that entanglement between two particles was a rare and fleeting phenomenon, so delicate that exposure of the particles to their surroundings would quickly destroy this linkage. Now mathematicians at Case Western University have shown that entanglement between parts of large systems is the norm, rather than being a rare and short-lived relationship.

Entanglement is one of the strangest predictions of quantum mechanics. Two objects are entangled if their physical properties are undefined but correlated, even when the two objects are separated by a large distance. No mechanism for entanglement is known, but so far experiments universally show that nonlocal entanglement is real. When two entangled particles are subjected to the influence of a surrounding environment, their interactions with the surroundings cause the entanglement to "leak out" into the surroundings, so it is more difficult to detect and use, but it does not disappear.

Entanglement is clearly subtle, but how common is it in the real world of macroscopic objects? A new research paper from Professor Stanislaw Szarek's mathematics group at Case Western Reserve University addresses this question, and finds that entanglement is ubiquitous in large objects.

Their analysis is essentially statistical, where the quantum probabilities are studied using the tools of geometric functional analysis, a field of mathematics well suited for addressing problems associated with very large numbers of dimensions.

Systems of a few particles will tend to lie close to a pure state, a state in which none of the internal particles are entangled with each other. The particles of such a system will show essentially no sign of being entangled. You can create a state of a few particles in which the particles are entangled, but these states are quite unusual.

When you consider larger systems, perhaps having thousands (or trillions) of particles, the quantum description is essentially the same, but the way the quantum attributes of the system scale with size changes the probabilities considerably. Now the pure states form only a very small portion of the possible quantum states, and as a result, the more probable behavior is that parts of the system are entangled with each other.

Szarek's team also considered the entanglement of subsystems of an entangled system. If you choose two particles from a system, the chance that they are entangled is very small; in fact, vanishingly small in the limit of very large systems. On the other hand, if you split the system in two, these halves are almost certain to be entangled with each other.

In the end, their analysis shows that in systems having large numbers of particles, a pair of tiny subsystems tend not to be entangled with each other, but a pair of large subsystems tend to be entangled. If you consider two subsystems each having fewer than about one-fifth of the total number of particles in the overall system, the subsystems are almost certainly not entangled with each other. If the two subsystems are larger than one-fifth of the original system, they are almost certainly entangled. The abrupt change in entanglement behavior is characteristic of the geometry of high-dimensional spaces.

The result shows that everyday objects are so constructed that their parts are entangled with each other, and are also entangled with most everything with which they have previously interacted. This is an interesting result, particularly for those who think of the Universe in holistic terms, but does this holism have any observable consequences? This is a very difficult question, to which we don't yet have a practical answer.

Large-scale entanglement guides how our world evolves, often in crucial ways. However, predicting how a specific action might change that evolution appears impossible, at least in any practical sense. Such prediction simply requires too much knowledge about the microscopic state of the world. One might say, facetiously, that magic works, but usually has no real and/or predictable effect. At least, within quantum mechanics.

Sources: Case Western Reserve University, arXiv.

About the Author
Brian Dodson From an early age Brian wanted to become a scientist. He did, earning a Ph.D. in physics and embarking on an R&D career which has recently broken the 40th anniversary. What he didn't expect was that along the way he would become a patent agent, a rocket scientist, a gourmet cook, a biotech entrepreneur, an opera tenor and a science writer.   All articles by Brian Dodson
18 Comments

Fascinating! I can't help to wonder about its influence on things like identical twins having a special connection, i.e. the one being in an accident and the other one feeling something at the same time.

Who knows?

Riaanh
11th June, 2013 @ 04:12 am PDT

@Riaanh - it seems very unlikely that entanglement has anything to do with any 'special connection' between twins such as you suggest, as it cannot be used to transfer information.

It might be said that any entanglement between twins would be special *because* it would have no influence on either.

DomainRider
11th June, 2013 @ 06:21 am PDT

so, if the internet is split such as .gov and .com and each subsystem has at least 1/5 of the total; then they are entangled?

If you consider large enough systems; then they have a chance of being entangled, though not split apart? i probably got this question wrong... but consider using this entanglement as a way of viewing what is going on at another planet or solar system or galaxy.

what defines the terms: "system", "split", "subsystem"?

Does .gov and .com mean that they have split off the internet "system"?

If another internet forms that has never been connected to the present internet and is at least 1/5 in size; then does that mean they are entangled? or do they have to be "split off"?

Given NSA's current prism program, imagine the consequences of spying between internet subsystems, etc.

I would think that twins would be considered a split of at least 1/5, but how do we know that they were part of a "system"?

What is the lower limitation of the size of a system? what if the original system before being split grows?

If a meteorite comes from the asteroid belt; then could we use it to view the asteroid belt from close up? I can't see how the asteroid belt could be considered a split off of a system, let alone the meteorite be considered 1/5 of the total...so the next question is how do we make an entanglement occur without the original system and or size? that would seem to make quantum entanglement actually useful.

notarichman
11th June, 2013 @ 06:52 am PDT

Hmm... build a ship that rides the entanglement and you could be everywhere at once all the time. Sounds like a description of god doesn't it? I wonder what sort of person we could meet there...

Grumpyrelic
11th June, 2013 @ 07:12 am PDT

this would explain several previously unexplained phenomena related to telepathy premonitions ghosts and you name it

Mihai Pruna
11th June, 2013 @ 07:44 am PDT

Sounds like God

omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient

from before the beginning to after the end

Alpha and Omega

unknowable dimensions, outside of time

real, hidden, revealed

divine paradox

Stephen Funck
11th June, 2013 @ 09:34 am PDT

If large systems that have interacted with each other are certainly entangled, then how about the big bang? Everything in this universe is then entangled no matter how far apart today.

see3d
11th June, 2013 @ 10:52 am PDT

This was a theme in Red Dwarf X episode 4 by Doug Naylor!

Pecos Pete
11th June, 2013 @ 11:01 am PDT

see3d,

Good insight. check out http://arxiv.org/pdf/1205.1584.pdf.

Brian Dodson

bdodson
12th June, 2013 @ 12:01 am PDT

Humans already have long empirical relationship with Quantum Entanglement in large systems; it has been called sympathetic magic. :)

Tick Tock
12th June, 2013 @ 01:19 am PDT

This is all nonsense. Main-stream physicists neither know what is quantum nor what is entanglement. LET EVERY STUDENT & FACULTY OF EVERY UNIVERSITY KNOW ABOUT FOLLOWING OPEN CHALLENGE. You could see it at http://www.worldsci.org/php/index.php?tab0=Abstracts&tab1=Display&id=6476&tab=2 and http://www.gsjournal.net/Science-Journals/Essays/View/4018

OPEN CHALLENGE

The article 'On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies' by Albert Einstein is based on trickeries is proved beyond any doubt whatsoever in the articles (1). Experimental & Theoretical Evidences of Fallacy of Space-time Concept and Actual State of Existence of the Physical Universe published in the peer-reviewed journal namely Indian Journal of Science & Technology (March 2012 issue) available on www.indjst.org (2) On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies By Albert Einstein is Based on Trickeries (Open letter to Professors, Teachers, Researchers and Students of Physics) published in peer-reviewed journal Elixir Online Journal (February 2012 issue) available on www.elixirjournal.org. The Voigt transformation was simply a mathematical possibility which was changed by Lorentz by introducing the Lorentz factor but the Lorentz factor is simply a manipulation. Thus nature and forces in nature were trivialized and made subservient to mathematics in the theories of relativity, Big Bang Theory, Space-time concept and in all physical sciences which are directly or indirectly based on the 'On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies'. It is unfortunate for humanity that exposing these trickeries took more than one hundred years.

I openly challenge all the professors, researchers & teachers of physics/philosophy of physics to come forward & show me where I am wrong or else they have to accept that they are teaching incorrect physics based on trickeries.

My challenge may not be treated as a publicity stunt, but I sincerely wish that truth should prevail on this planet and am expecting identical response from all truth loving people/intellectuals. I do understand that it is hard for mainstream physicists to reconcile with the alternative philosophy; though actual and factual; as almost all the living physicists and researchers are borne, brought up and taught physics which is fundamentally incorrect. Their livelihood is based on the physics which has been adopted as the result of fraud, but these material interests should never be a stumbling block to acknowledge the reality, which to my understanding is the essence of scientific thinking and honest living for the betterment of entire human society.

I have not an iota of doubt that sooner or later the truth will prevail, but it would be in the interest of humanity that truth is accepted now so that humanity comes out of clutches of materialism which in itself is naked atheism.

Mohammad Shafiq Khan
12th June, 2013 @ 04:40 am PDT

M S Khan - It is the ism's and general allegations of trickery which you speak that keep people from enlightenment - and are not appreciated here. You offer no specifics, but only a general perspective of philosophical alternatives which are no doubt unprovable or reproducible. I have personally reviewed the basis for most accepted basic physical "theories" and find that most are based in some kind of empirical evidence, with no basis in fraud. The truth you don't appear to recognize is reflected in the very fact that technologies exists to allow you to make the flagrant assertions you do so easily and unimpeded to our large world populace. I find this article facinating in that it is a report of what I consider the highest form of human achievement - to study truth.

Johnny Partain
13th June, 2013 @ 09:05 am PDT

Someone said there are lies, damn lies and statistics.

I remind you that statistical evidence can never prove or disprove anything, only suggest probabilities.

nutcase
13th June, 2013 @ 10:12 pm PDT

So....if I understand these mathematical relationships correctly, Zaphod Beeblebrox's spaceship, which uses an "improbability drive," is entirely logical. You have to wonder if Douglas Adams had a particularly astute connection to quantum physics, or if today's quantum physicists are all fans of "The Hitch-hikers' Guide to The Universe."

Thinking Citizen
13th June, 2013 @ 10:13 pm PDT

I wonder if the terms 'aether' or 'ether' will ever be used in conjunction with the term 'quantum entanglement'.

It's possible that Telsa's magnifying transmitter at Wardenclyffe was to use a light ether broadcast, with receivers capturing the energy instantaneously and then splitting out a warm ether component from the light ether for use in ordinary electrical systems.

I see a long distance instantaneous coupling mechanism here that is not completely understood and completely overlooked.

David Mott
14th June, 2013 @ 11:50 am PDT

Dr. Dodson, what do you think of this?

http://arxiv.org/pdf/quant-ph/0203049.pdf

James Maynard Gelinas
14th June, 2013 @ 06:28 pm PDT

The only statement that got me thinking was:

"The result shows that everyday objects are so constructed that their parts are entangled with each other, and are also entangled with most everything with which they have previously interacted. "

If you can make a funnel for particles, and then a catch for those particles, like blowing air into a balloon, then those particles will have all impacted the side of the funnel as they travel through.

Would that not mean you could create a whole region with particles that are all in some way associated with one point of contact?

What implications does this have if the funnel particles change state?

Nairda
5th July, 2013 @ 12:08 am PDT

Yes, entanglement is the norm rather than a rare and fleeting phenomena. this is exactly what Schrodinger tried to convey through his celebrated thought experiment "Schrodinger's cat". And again Einstein & Schrodinger weren't complacent with the implications of this "spooky action at a distance," is why this and the EPR experiment were intended to show the inconsistency as an argument for the incompleteness of Quantum Theory. But later entanglement had to be accepted as a property of quantum systems.

In reality every known object must be entangled with another or more such Sub-microscopic systems with out exception.

Homeopathy is an excellent example, which implies the states of health is entangled with such a sub-microscopic system. Hahnemann explicitly states that any impairment or derangement in the hypothetical "Vital force" is accompanied by a corresponding impairment in the state of health. By manipulating the sub microscopic system it is possible to restore the state of health too. Thus the behavior of that sub microscopic system is clearly complementary & thus definitely implying an entangled system for want of a contemporary concept, was called the "Vital force".

Venkatesh KN
10th September, 2013 @ 06:16 am PDT
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