Quantum Entanglement and the Theory of Relativity

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Quantum Entanglement and the Theory of RelativityThe universe has a speed limit. That’s what Albert Einstein said. And you can’t talk about Einstein without talking about quantum entanglement and the theory of relativity. Or, at least that is what we’re going to talk about!

According to Einstein, nothing can travel faster than the speed of light — roughly 300,000 kilometers per second. And I know that seems very fast, but on a cosmic scale, it’s really not. In fact, it’s slow enough that we can measure space in terms of light years — which you undoubtedly know is the distance light travels in one year. Imagine moving at 300,000 k/s through space! It seems like you could go very far, very quickly doesn’t it?

Think again. In our galaxy alone, which is made up of more stars than you can imagine, it would take four light years just to get to the nearest one! Now imagine how long it would take just to get across our entire galaxy. To put it in even more perspective, light is reaching the earth today from the farthest reaches of the visible universe that originated billions of years ago. In other words, when human beings look at that light, they are actually seeing something that happened billions of years in the past. How’s that for time travel?

So Special Relativity has effectively shackled us to the nearest reaches of our galaxy… or has it?

There is a phenomenon in subatomic science called quantum entanglement. As usual, I am speaking as a novice here, so feel free to take any and all of this with a grain of salt. What happens is two subatomic particles become inextricably connected by a bond, and if one of these particles does something, the other particle does something exactly opposite. But the strangest part of the phenomenon is that these particles react to one another instantly, and without regard to the distance between them. That’s the important part. These two particles could be at opposite ends of the universe, and they would still react instantly to one another.

Wait a minute. Didn’t Einstein say the universal speed limit is bound by light? So what’s going on? The answer: nobody knows. Even Einstein was befuddled by quantum entanglement. But the ramifications are clear — if it’s possible for any element in nature to transmit data (or force, or whatever) instantaneously — and the phenomenon of quantum entanglement has been firmly established scientifically —  then Special Relativity either needs to make an exception, or it needs to be remodeled in a big way.

The implications are staggering; imagine computers that could transmit binary signals instantly. It gives the word “wireless” a whole new meaning. And if it’s possible for these particles to behave in this way, then theoretically, it should be possible for any particles to behave this way — and that might mean space travel on a level we can only begin to imagine.

Just something to think about on a Sunday afternoon…


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