Quirks & Quarks

Spooky Action at a Distance

Science writer George Musser looks at the exotic and near magical phenomena of "Spooky Action at a Distance" that might help us understand how the Universe is made.

Exploring the strange phenomena that spooked Albert Einstein

Quantum Entanglement Animation (National Institute of Standards and Technology)
The discovery of the strange world of Quantum Mechanics, in the first half of the 20th century, created a problem for physics. Quantum mechanics suggested that there were circumstances in which two particles could be connected or "entangled" - and then, when subsequently separated, they would still maintain their connection - so that what happened to one particle would determine what happened to the other.
Einstein called this "spooky action at a distance" and it was the latest shot in a 3000-year-long back and forth dispute in science. The dispute is over a principle called "locality" which, more or less, means that the universe works by direct physical influence - you affect things by effectively touching them with matter or energy rather than through instantaneous, "magical" influences.

But according to George Musser, a science writer and Contributing Editor to Scientific American magazine, in the last 60 years, more non-local "spooky actions" have been found. And he says that researchers are now finding ways to understand these observations as signs of a deeper view on what actually makes up space-time. Mr. Musser's new book exploring this idea is called Spooky Action at a Distance: The Phenomenon That Reimagines Space and Time - and What It Means for Black Holes, the Big Bang, and Theories of Everything.