by S.M. Chen | 28 October 2022 |
The above words were used by famed physicist Albert Einstein (1879-1955) to describe the phenomenon of quantum entanglement.
There were likely very few things in life Einstein wanted to understand but didn’t or couldn’t. This may have been one even he had difficulty wrapping his head around.
Like some others of his ilk, he did like to keep life simple, so he could devote his considerable mental energy to more important complexities, such as his work. He couldn’t be bothered with having two different kinds of soap – one for bathing and one for shaving. One would suffice, thank you. He disliked mending holes in his socks; they would eventually have to be discarded anyway.
Nonetheless, he described the phenomenon with simplicity and elegance in terms a non-physicist or non-mathematician might understand.
(It was Einstein who said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible – but no simpler.”)
So let us take a look. We, too, may not be able to understand the concept. But we can try.
Physicist and Nobel laureate (1965) Richard Feynman opined, “I think I can safely say that nobody really understands quantum mechanics.”
Feynman was not a man known for hyperbole. It was one thing to speak for himself. It was quite another to speak for others.
The field of physics is populated by some pretty clever people. POTUS JFK* once remarked at a 1962 Washington DC dinner honoring Nobel Prize winners of the Western Hemisphere: “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”
JFK went on to say that Thomas Jefferson (who, among other accomplishments, designed his own residence, Monticello) was “a gentleman of 32 who could calculate an eclipse, survey an estate, tie an artery, plan an edifice, try a cause, break a horse, and dance the minuet.”
Jefferson was not a physicist. Had he been, and had quantum mechanics existed in his day, it is unclear whether he would have misunderstood it.
Was Feynman going on out a limb, only to risk having it sawed off by some skeptic wielding a saw? It has been said that, to someone holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Perhaps to someone wielding a saw, everything looks like it could benefit from a little pruning.
Sir Isaac Newton, no slouch in matters of physics (he invented calculus and, until Einstein came along, his interpretations of various physical laws that govern the universe were accepted as truth), acknowledged his debt to those who went before. Newton said: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
He also said this: “In the absence of other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of the existence of God.”
We can at least examine this sub-branch of physics and see what others think of it. How far we can peer beyond the mist into the distance depends on us.
Really, really tiny
Quantum mechanics is “a fundamental theory in physics that provides a description of the physical properties of nature on the scale of atoms and subatomic particles” (online definition).
How small are those particles? It is estimated that billions could fit in the dot made by the tip of a sewing needle.
(For more elucidation of just how small these particles are, check out this short video.)
Perhaps not coincidentally, things look remarkably similar when one progresses from the infinitesimal to the infinite. This observation is not an original one. Others have seen the correlation. If one examines the elliptical orbits of our planets in their journey around the sun (the lengths of Earth’s day and year are unique and not the same as those of the other planets), the movement of the solar system in our galaxy, the Milky Way, and the path of galaxies in the cosmos, there are undeniable similarities to the orbits of electrons around a nucleus comprised of protons and neutrons.
The same Intelligent Design (or God, YHWH, he/she/it/they, whatever name you wish to term it/them; there are close to 4,000 religions, and many of them have different names for God or deity) seems responsible for both.
But I digress
Back to quantum entanglement.
Whole books (and more) have been devoted to this topic, I don’t pretend to be able to do justice to the topic in a short essay.
I can hear voices in the background, like weary kids in the back of the car asking, “Are we there yet?”
Yes, Virginia, we have arrived. And here it is.
Quantum entanglement is “the physical phenomenon that occurs when particles are generated, interact, or share spatial proximity in a way such that the quantum state of each particle of the group cannot be described independently of the state of the others, including when the particles are separated” by great distance (online definition).
But rather than my trying to explain it and possibly creating a muddle (that which is not understood, or barely understood, may be more easily muddled), here is a link which (at least attempts to) explain quantum entanglement better than I possibly can in a few short words.
Bear in mind this topic was not easily grasped by minds far greater than mine. They wrote treatises on it. They argued about it. Fortunately (to my knowledge), they didn’t duel over it.
So why is a piece like this at a site like this? What is the bearing?
It occurs to me that many, if most, if not all things in the universe are connected. In ways few of us grasp.
In an ideal union (take an ideal marriage; some may qualify), when one partner weeps, the other tastes salt.
So with two particles, one seems to know what path the other will take, and, despite great distance which may exist between them, they act accordingly. Instantaneously.
It was that way at the Incarnation
Despite astronomical separation (some have posited that the gateway to heaven passes through the constellation Orion; that, at 1,344 light years away, is considerably more distant than the nearest star to Earth other than our sun, the Alpha Centauri, a mere 4+ light years) between Himself and the Father, Christ the Master knew and did the will of the Father.
The two were on the same page.
So it may be between those who seek the will of the divine in their earthly lives, and the divine: the two are as one. One part/particle, the divine, has a set course. The other, the human, knows that course and acts accordingly. Despite great distance between them, concordance travels at the speed of thought, not of light.
Think of the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, gazing into the fiery furnace into which the three Hebrew worthies had just been cast. If he indeed glimpsed the visage of the Son of God, how long did it take for the Son to reach the furnace from wherever else he had just been? Or was He there all along? Was Nebuchadnezzar seeing an avatar?
We are not told. Someday some of us may know. Who knows on what level the universe is connected?
Now we see as through a glass darkly. Someday some of us may have the privilege of seeing clearly.
*POTUS JFK is President of the United States John F. Kennedy
S.M. Chen writes from southern California.