Sorry, Einstein, Quantum Study Suggests ‘Spooky Action’ Is Real
Bas Hensen, left, and Ronald Hanson helped show that objects apart can instantly affect each other. Credit Frank Auperle/Delft University of Technology
By JOHN MARKOFF, NYT
OCT. 21, 2015
In a landmark study, scientists at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands reported that they had conducted an experiment that they say proved one of the most fundamental claims of quantum theory — that objects separated by great distance can instantaneously affect each other’s behavior.
The finding is another blow to one of the bedrock principles of standard physics known as “locality,” which states that an object is directly influenced only by its immediate surroundings. The Delft study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, lends further credence to an idea that Einstein famously rejected. He said quantum theory necessitated “spooky action at a distance,” and he refused to accept the notion that the universe could behave in such a strange and apparently random fashion.
In particular, Einstein derided the idea that separate particles could be “entangled” so completely that measuring one particle would instantaneously influence the other, regardless of the distance separating them.
Einstein was deeply unhappy with the uncertainty introduced by quantum theory and described its implications as akin to God’s playing dice.
But since the 1970s, a series of precise experiments by physicists are increasingly erasing doubt — alternative explanations that are referred to as loopholes — that two previously entangled particles, even if separated by the width of the universe, could instantly communicate.