Einstein is considered to be one of the greatest scientific minds of all time. His work on relativity, gravity, and other fields advanced human understanding of the universe by immeasurable amounts. Yet for all his brilliance, Einstein could never quite figure out the “Theory of Everything” he so feverishly sought.
Einstein’s shortcomings have long been tied to his inability to decipher the hard to explain randomness of quantum physics.
In many ways, Einstein simply rejected quantum physics, including a strange theory called quantum entanglement. For some time scientists have noted that atoms seemed to be able instantaneously affect each other over vast distances, but they could never explain how.
This idea of objects being able to instantaneously affect one another over vast distances phenomondeeply disturbed Albert Einstein, who long claimed that nothing could travel faster than the speed of light. Even now, decades after Einstein’s death, the fastest communications networks we have can travel only at the speed of light.
Yet such instantaneous communication between two particles seemed to defy the speed of light principle.
Einstein went as far as to call these theorized instantaneous communications as “spooky action at a distance”. Any such “spooky action” would violate the notion of “local-realism”. The local part refers to the already mentioned concept that nothing, not even data transmissions, can travel at a speed faster than that of light.
In order to prove the existence of instantaneous communication, researchers needed to prove that the communication was traveling than the speed of light. By doing so, the researchers would prove that quantum physics, somehow, someway, was able to break the “local” barrier of physics that says such communications is impossible.
To prove that something could break the local barrier, researchers set up an experiment using two instruments about 1.3 kilometers apart. The instruments contained a diamond trap that would hold an electron so it could then be hit with bursts of lasers and microwaves.
Once the electrons were hit, they emitted photons that then traveled down optical fibers to a third instrument in between them. Then, once the two photons came into contact, the particles became entangled.
From then on, the particles seemed to be completely entangled. Observations and measurements to examine the spin of one electron instantly affected the other. Importantly, the distances between the two objects, 1.3 kilometers, was too far for any communication to happen that quickly, at least not at the speed of light.
While scientists now have the best proof yet that quantum entanglement does occur, no one has yet been able to explain why such entanglement occurs, and what facilitates it.
The actual existence of quantum entanglement has long been questioned, but the recent study has all but laid the debate to rest. Researchers at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands have now found the most concrete evidence yet of the phenomenon.
We’re still a lot ways away from a Theory of Everything, and in order to discover such a theory, we may have to look past Einstein.