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skullsinthestars

What is quantum entanglement? Part 5: Making it happen

This is part 5 in a lengthy series of posts attempting to explain the idea of quantum entanglement to a non-physics audience.  Part 1 can be read here,  Part 2 can be read here, Part 3 here, and Part 4 here.

So at this point we have an idea of what entanglement is, and some reassurance that it doesn’t ruin all of physics with its existence!  Now we turn to a very important question: how, in practice, do we produce entangled quantum particles?

In our discussions so...

What is quantum entanglement? Part 3: Entanglement, at last

This is part 3 in a lengthy series of posts attempting to explain the idea of quantum entanglement to a non-physics audience.  Part 1 can be read here, and Part 2 can be read here.

Here, in part 3, we will at long last introduce entanglement! But, before we do, we need to be sure we really understand what the wave properties of a quantum particle imply about its behavior.

So, by the late 1920s, physicists knew that discrete bits of matter — electrons, for example —...

What is quantum entanglement? Part 2: Randomness and measurement

This is part 2 in a lengthy series of posts attempting to explain the idea of quantum entanglement to a non-physics audience.  Part 1 can be read here.

So, by the mid 1920s, physicists had made significant progress in developing the new quantum theory.  It had been shown that light and matter each possess a dual nature as waves and particles, and Schrödinger had derived a mathematical equation that accurately described how the wave part of matter evolves in space and...

The Southern Reach trilogy, by Jeff VanderMeer

I’m not entirely sure why it took me three years to read Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy.  One of his earlier novels, Finch, is on a very short list of “best books I’ve ever read.”  I suspect that I simply read the name “Southern Reach” and it somehow evoked images of the Southern United States in a weird way that didn’t appeal to me, and I just never got around to looking at the books.  Until, that is, I read the...

The geometry of weird-shaped dice

I’ve been enjoying a bit of reminiscing about my childhood lately, hunting down old copies of role-playing games I enjoyed in my youth as well as exploring newer games that have come out since then.  One thing that has changed dramatically since my gaming days is the proliferation of types of dice.  Most human beings never go beyond ordinary 6-sided dice, which we in the gaming world call a “d6.” Classic Dungeons & Dragons players, however, are...

What is quantum entanglement? Part 4: relativity and entanglement

This is part 4 in a lengthy series of posts attempting to explain the idea of quantum entanglement to a non-physics audience.  Part 1 can be read here,  Part 2 can be read here, and Part 3 here. 

In the last post, we finally introduced the concept of quantum entanglement.  An example of an entangled state between two quantum particles is given by the decay of a spin-zero pion into a spin-1/2 positron and a spin-1/2 electron, as illustrated below.

This results in a combined...

Coming in 2018: Falling Felines and Fundamental Physics!

I’ve only been hinting at this revelation so far, but I am finally ready to let the cat out of the bag — almost literally!  I have signed a contract with Yale University Press to write my first popular science book, which I have tentatively titled “Falling Felines and Fundamental Physics!”

This book will combine physics and history to tell the surprisingly long story of scientists and engineers studying the remarkable ability of a cat to (almost)...

What is Quantum Entanglement? Part 1: Waves and particles

If you follow science, or science fiction, to any degree, great or small, you’ve probably heard the term “quantum entanglement” before.  You may also have heard it referred to as “spooky action at a distance,” and understand that it somehow involves a weird connection between separated quantum particles that can “communicate,” in a sense, over long distances instantaneously.  You may have read that quantum entanglement...

Chills, by Mary SanGiovanni

I’ve been in a bit of a funk the past few weeks and haven’t been reading much.  What I needed to get myself back on track was a nice solid bit of horror fiction, and fortunately I had on hand the most recent novel by Mary SanGiovanni, Chills.

As is made clear from the cover image and the title, Chills centers on a danger that originates in the coldest weather.  A team of detectives and investigators race, in the midst of a blizzard, to solve a series of grisly murders and...

Optics basics: reflection

It’s been some 5 years since I wrote my last “Optics basics” post!  The goal of that series of posts was to introduce some of the most fundamental concepts in optics in a non-technical way, in part so I wouldn’t have to constantly reexplain them in more advanced posts.

I’ve covered most of the topics that I would truly call “basic” — hence the long time since the last post — but I realized that I missed one concept that...

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