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)
Listen15:13
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.