Consciousness Blog 15 September 2015

Disentangling Entanglement

For sixty years, the theory of quantum mechanics has been in a state of suspension, or if you will, entanglement, while experimenters have attempted to resolve the issue of whether entangled particles, however remote from one another, can reflect each other's state instantaneously, thus apparently breaking the rule that nothing (in this case, information) can travel faster than light. Such a phenomenon, if it occurs, is known as 'non-locality'.

Einstein called an apparent demonstration of non-locality "spooky action at at distance", and preferred to believe that there are 'hidden variables' attached to entangled particles. Along with co-workers Boris Poldolsky and Nathan Rosen, the three stated the 'EPR Paradox', being either that entanglement implies non-locality, or that there are hidden variables.

In 1964 John Stewart Bell, an Irish-Scottish physicist, posited Bell's Theorem, which established a clear mathematical test for the presence of non-locality, involving an inequality. Violation of the inequality implies that non-locality is present. Bell himself appears to have believed in the existence of hidden variables, but the results of numerous subsequent experiments have consistently demonstrated violations of Bell's inequality, thus establishing non-locality as a fundamental feature of our universe.

However, there are potential loopholes in the experimental procedures that were used, and during the last ten years further experiments have attempted to close them.

The two most significant loopholes are the 'detection' loophole and the 'locality' loophole. Proofs of Bell's theorem depend on the detection and measurement of photons, and it is experimentally very difficult to detect a high proportion of the photons being generated. As long as some photons escape detection, there is a theoretical possibiity that the escapees are different from the ones that are caught (in effect, that there is an undiscovered hidden variable). The locality loophole results from the possibility that one measurement could 'contaminate' another measurement; thus the only way to avoid it is to complete each next measurement before the previous one could have been communicated (at the speed of light, evidently).

A further loophole is concerned with 'freedom of choice': if in fact the results of an experiment were determined in advance (by God or the universe or whatever) then a fair sample of photons will be impossible to achieve. Such theories are known as 'superdeterministic' and in their nature are hard to disprove. For what it is worth, Bell himself rejected superdeterminism as being highly implausible.

In the 50 years since Bell published his inequality, experiments have come ever closer to closing all three loopholes, and now an experiment conducted by a team led by Ronald Hanson of Delft University of Technology, reported in the September edition of Nature, albeit not yet peer-reviewed, claims to have firmly closed both the 'detection' and the 'locality' loopholes.

Says the report:

The researchers started with two unentangled electrons sitting in diamond crystals held in different labs on the Delft campus, 1.3 kilometres apart. Each electron was individually entangled with a photon, and both of those photons were then zipped to a third location. There, the two photons were entangled with each other — and this caused both their partner electrons to become entangled, too.

The experiment generated 245 pairs of entangled electrons over nine days, clearly violating Bell's inequality, in a way that closed both loopholes at once: because the electrons were easy to monitor, the detection loophole was not an issue, and they were sufficiently separated to close the communication loophole in addition.

The researchers, like most others, express themselves as being unconcerned about the 'freedom of choice' loophole.

Non-locality is therefore a done deal, to all intents and purposes, and physicists are faced with the fact that there is a 'field' (call it what you will, a space, a medium) in which the supposedly immutable laws of physical science do not operate. Quantum scientists have been saying this through their mathematics for the best part of a hundred years, yet mainstream scientists have always managed to wriggle out of the consequences. Now there is no wriggle-room left!

Read more in Agent Human: Supplement; The Collective Unconscious by Michael Bell, The Involvement Of PSI In The Evolution Of Consciousness


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