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Review - Entanglement - Amir Aczel

 

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Einstein described the concept of entanglement as “spukhafte Fernwirkungen” (spooky action at a distance). It's a concept that is so strange than even now, 70 years after it was first realized that it might exist, most people are unaware of it, and many simply fail to believe it is possible.

Entanglement, which Einstein believed was so unlikely an idea that it would cause the downfall of quantum theory, means that it is possible for two particles to become so closely related that they can be separated to opposite sides of the universe, yet when a change happens to one particle, the other particle is instantly changed to reflect the state of its 'twin'. Bearing in mind this implies that the two have a connection that gets around Einstein's pronouncement about nothing travelling faster than light, it's easy to see why he didn't think much of it.

Entanglement is not as easy concept to get across. Exactly what it is, how it works and how it can be demonstrated is not obvious. Unfortunately, Aczel's book does little to remedy this.

He decided that it is important to give lots of background to entanglement, so around 80% of the book is actually on quantum theory or the people who made the necessary steps that had to be taken before Alain Aspect first demonstrated entanglement in the 1980s. It also means there's very little on the application of entanglement, which leaves the reader thinking to some extent 'well, that's amazing, but so what?'

Even so, what Aczel decided to cover should have been useful and interesting. In fact it fails rather even on that score, because it's too technical for a popular science audience. With lines like The reason, in this example, for the noncomutativity of the two operators can be seen by anyone who know a little calculus: Derivative (X(Ψ))= Ψ+X(Derivative Ψ), which does not equal X(Derivative Ψ), which is the application of the two operators in the reverse order.  it simply isn't aimed at the right audience. A pity.

For a more up-to-date and readable book on entanglement, see The God Effect.

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Reviewed by Brian Clegg

See more about the author in the Amir Aczel biography

                     

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Last update 05 June 2007