Rotating Question Curious About Astronomy? Ask an Astronomer

Does quantum entanglement imply faster than light communication?

I read the questions and answers here. You seem quite convinced that information cannot travel faster than light.

However, as I read it, I clearly remembered an article send out by NASA, which describes the possibilities and exciting consequences of the proberty called entanglement. You can find it here. Do you and your fellow colleuges simply not believe in it, or is this new results which will change our interpretation of relative physics?

Great question! Quantum entanglement is a really interesting phenomena and one that we all enjoyed worrying about in our quantum mechanics and relativity classes!

The way people get around the idea that entanglement implies instantaneous communication is that no actual information is passed when the entangled particles affect each other. The arguement is as follows (using a non-QM example):

Say you agree to send out two beams of light to your two friends who live on opposite sides of the galaxy (you live in the middle). Ahead of time you tell them that if one of the beams of light is red the other will be blue. So you send the blue beam to your friend on one side and immediately she knows that your other friend is recieving a red beam at the same time. Aha! You say, my friends have now communicated at a speed faster than the speed of light and violated relativity, but no real information has been passed between them. You have told both of them at a normal sub-luminal speed about what you just did and that's all. (A way of proving there's no faster than light communication is that you could lie and send them both the same coloured beam of light and they would never know!).

With QM is gets a bit more complicated because theoretically no-one knows the state of the particle until it has been observed, but you still cannot affect the state of the particle so the arguement is the same.

There is a nice article about this stuff here which talks about the EPR (Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen) paradox. Einstein and his colleagues were very uncomfortable when they heard about quantum entanglement and devised the EPR paradox to 'prove' that it couldn't be true (meaning that while you hadn't observed the particle yet it still has a state). It was proved in one line of algebra that this idea of "hidden" variables couldn't be true.

As I said above though, quantum entanglement still does not imply faster than light communication. You cannot affect which state the particle goes into, even though it doesn't 'decide' on its state until you observe it.

March 2004, Karen Masters (more by Karen Masters) (Like this Answer)

Still Curious?

Get More 'Curious?' with Our New PODCAST:

Related questions:

More questions about The Theory of Relativity: Previous | Next

More questions about General Physics: Previous | Next

How to ask a question:

If you have a follow-up question concerning the above subject, submit it here. If you have a question about another area of astronomy, find the topic you're interested in from the archive on our site menu, or go here for help.

Table 'curious.Referrers' doesn't existTable 'curious.Referrers' doesn't exist

URL: http://curious.astro.cornell.edu/question.php?number=612
This page has been accessed 64194 times since March 8, 2004.
Last modified: March 8, 2004 1:35:06 PM

Legal questions? See our copyright, disclaimer and privacy policy.
Ask an Astronomer is hosted by the Astronomy Department at Cornell University and is produced with PHP and MySQL.

Warning: Your browser is misbehaving! This page might look ugly. (Details)