Ramchandani J / SOL

What’s this “spooky action at a distance”, said Einstein

A long long time ago, in 1935, at the time of crazy wars and experimentation, an evil scientist Mr. EPR (pronounced as eppper), who no one would marry, was yearning for his own children to experiment on. So one day, he concocted a recipe to make two twins from the same spark of light, Bob and Alice:

Ramchandani J / SOL

Mr. EPR soon got insanely jealous of the bond between Bob and Alice and decided to separate them. So he quickly built a flying machine and sent them to two separate parts of the world. But as much as he tried to keep them apart, Bob and Alice still had a secret way of communicating. Mr. EPR knew this because every time he sent a shockwave to spin Bob, Alice’s spin would automatically flip! He was observing them very carefully.

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Ramchandani J / SOL

Mr. EPR was a very smart scientist and knew that they could be communicating through light signals, much like we do now with our cell phones! So he said, “Ha ha ha, now I’ll build an even better spaceship and send them to opposite sides of the Solar System”.

To his dismay, his trick didn’t work. Because again when he wiggled Bob’s spin, Alice’s spin changed instantaneously too! They couldn’t possibly be communicating through light. Because the light signal would take at least 8 hours from Bob to Alice given how big our Solar System is!

Ramchandani J / SOL

At this point Mr. EPR gave up, because he couldn’t for the life him understand what was going on! As for Bob and Alice, they kept on drifting off into space, to the far ends of the Universe, and even though they were now really far away to physically play with each other, they could still communicate and were still connected!

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Ramchandani J / SOL

Think About It

This story is based on a thought experiment proposed by Einstein, Pololsky and Rosen (known as the EPR paradox) in 1935. It questioned our description of physics and thus reality at the time and was dubbed “Spooky Action at a Distance” by Einstein because the “medium” of communication between Bob and Alice was a complete mystery (and still is!). It wasn’t until 1997 their claims were was experimentally verified (although still not completely understood). Since then research on quantum entanglement, the phenomenon of a pair of particles being able to communicate with each other mysteriously has been actively researched as it may be key to making instantaneous communication a reality, regardless of the distance between the communicators. What is creepier is that not only do photons (light) entangle, this has also been verified to happen with electrons, tiny molecules, and even small diamonds! While research spears on with what we can do with this awesome phenomenon (we can’t wait for teleportation), we can’t help but ponder about what it means for human connections. Are we all entangled in some way if the entire universe evolved from the same spark?

Learn More

Quantum Entanglement Explained | Minute Physics videos on all things Quantum

About the Authors

Jaya Ramchandani works on several astronomy and physics outreach projects. She is also a co-founder of Sirius Interactive, a language solutions company for researchers.

Jonathan Dias freelances for magazines and papers like Maxim and the Herald, writing about women, food and gadgets. He is also attempting to write a cook book that involves a lot of bacon and beer.

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