Delft University of Technology reports: In 1935, Einstein asked a profound question about our understanding of Nature: are objects only influenced by their nearby environment? Or could, as predicted by quantum theory, looking at one object sometimes instantaneously affect another far-away object? Einstein did not believe in quantum theory’s prediction, famously calling it “spooky action”.
Exactly 80 years later, a team of scientists led by professor Ronald Hanson from Delft University of Technology finally performed what is seen as the ultimate test against Einstein’s worldview: the loophole-free Bell test. The scientists found that two electrons, separated 1.3 km from each other on the Delft University campus, can indeed have an invisible and instantaneous connection: the spooky action is real.
The experiment, published in Nature today, breaks the last standing defence of Einstein’s iconic 1935 paper: it closes all the loopholes present in earlier experiments. The Delft experiment not only closes a chapter in one of the most intriguing debates in science, it may also enable a radically new form of secure communications that is fundamentally impossible to ‘eavesdrop’ into.
“Quantum mechanics states that a particle such as an electron can be in two different states at the same time, and even in two different places, as long as it is not observed. This is called ‘superposition’ and it is a very counter-intuitive concept”, says lead scientist Professor Ronald Hanson. Hanson’s group works with trapped electrons, which have a tiny magnetic effect known as a “spin” that can be pointing up, or down, or – when in superposition – up and down at the same time. “Things get really interesting when two electrons become entangled. Both are then up and down at the same time, but when observed one will always be down and the other one up. They are perfectly correlated, when you observe one, the other one will always be opposite. That effect is instantaneous, even if the other electron is in a rocket at the other end of the galaxy”, says Hanson. [Continue reading…]