The quantum world is strange. So strange, in fact, that even Einstein—who, we can all agree, was a rather smart man—had issues coming to grips with some stuff in the quantum realm.

For one thing, he really fretted over particle pairs in the so-called entangled state. Without going into much detail: measuring each separately gives random answers, but compare the results and they will always be consistent with each other.

No matter how distant the two particles are, it’s as if they telepathically communicated to each other what to do. I’ll leave it to Veritasium to explain it better than I would.

Einstein didn’t want to believe this. He thought what I’m doing with my particle over here cannot affect your particle over there faster than the speed of light. Which seems very reasonable—but is also wrong. In the sixties John Stewart Bell proved mathematically that, if a theory is to reproduce the results of quantum mechanics (which are right), it has to allow for telepathic particles. This, of course, goes for Quantum Mechanics too, not just for crackpot theories.

Despite verifications that Quantum Mechanics really does what Bell said, some very smart people are still unwavering. So several universities, from Australia to Rome, from Munich to the USA, set up a massive collaborative experiment: the Big Bell Test (get the name now?). In each location, they measured pairs of particles checking Bell’s prediction that they would be “telepathic”. The more random the test, the harder it is to fake telepathy (for people and particles alike), so they measured in random ways.

But weeding out every possible link between seemingly “random” data is really hard, so the scientists decided to turn to the public. 100,000+ people played an online game: their independent, unpredictable decisions there created the random measurements.

How did it end? Early to say, but the preliminary results are that… Well… Sorry, Albert: it happens to the best of us.

john_stewart_bell_dealwithit

John Bell says: deal with it. (CC-BY-SA, modifications by me, click for original)

If you want more
  • I merrily glossed over a ton of stuff this time. In my defense, there are literally entire books on this. Personally, I like this one.
  • If you don’t have time for a whole book, the people at the Big Bell Test put together a playlist, with explanations from the very best educational youtubers.

 

Cover photo: CC0 Michael Schwarzenberger/pixabay

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