Saturday, May 08, 2010

It's Almost As If Everything Were Part Of Some Great Big Whole

It's become rather fashionable to poo-poo the notion that was popular for a while that some of the theories of quantum physics "prove" what many Pagans believe: that everything is connected, that magic works, etc. And, I get that, in the sense that some of that discussion may have been a bit simplistic. And, Goddess knows, I am not a girl with a mind for the maths. Still, articles like this one always make me smile.

ERWIN SCHRÖDINGER called it the "defining trait" of quantum theory. Einstein could not bring himself to believe in it at all, thinking it proof that quantum theory was seriously buggy. It is entanglement: the idea that particles can be linked in such a way that changing the quantum state of one instantaneously affects the other, even if they are light years apart.

This "spooky action at a distance", in Einstein's words, is a serious blow to our conception of how the world works. In 1964, physicist John Bell of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland, showed just how serious. He calculated a mathematical inequality that encapsulated the maximum correlation between the states of remote particles in experiments in which three "reasonable" conditions hold: that experimenters have free will in setting things up as they want; that the particle properties being measured are real and pre-existing, not just popping up at the time of measurement; and that no influence travels faster than the speed of light, the cosmic speed limit.

As many experiments since have shown, quantum mechanics regularly violates Bell's inequality, yielding levels of correlation way above those possible if his conditions hold.

. . .

Or is there really an influence that travels faster than light? Cementing the Swiss reputation for precision timing, in 2008 physicist Nicolas Gisin and his colleagues at the University of Geneva showed that, if reality and free will hold, the speed of transfer of quantum states between entangled photons held in two villages 18 kilometres apart was somewhere above 10 million times the speed of light (Nature, vol 454, p 861).

Magic happens. When we move between the worlds, (Hel, even when we don't) what we do in one, affects them all. Welcome to what lots of native peoples and mystics of every time and culture have always known. And it's not "spooky" at all; it's glorious.

Hat tip to Moonbotica in comments at Eschaton.

Picture found here.

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