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Wentworth College in Town: Dr Chris Hooley, Uni. of St Andrews

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Wentworth College in Town: Dr Chris Hooley, Uni. of St Andrews


Dr Chris Hooley, University of St Andrews

"Spooky action at a distance, and Professor Bertlmann's socks - or, what is quantum entanglement, and why should we care about it?"Experiments in atomic physics in the early twentieth century forced a dramatic change in our view of the microscopic world.  Point-like particles following definite trajectories were replaced by waves of probability. These waves collapse to a point on measurement, but the location of that point is random, and is different every time the experiment is run.  The new laws of physics that describe these probability waves are collectively called quantum mechanics.This might seem strange enough.  However, the attempt to apply quantum mechanics to systems composed of more than one particle generates even further weirdness.  In those cases, measurements carried out in one region of space can apparently cause the probability wave to collapse to a point somewhere totally different!  This phenomenon is called entanglement, and is one of the strangest predictions of the quantum theory.In this talk, I will give a non-mathematical explanation of the notion of entanglement, and explain why it made Einstein uncomfortable enough to refer to it as "spooky action at a distance."  I will also describe John Bell's argument that the phenomena it predicts cannot be explained using Newton's theory. Finally, I will discuss the pioneering experiments of Alain Aspect and his group, who have shown that the counter-intuitive predictions of quantum mechanics are actually borne out in the real world."But where do the socks come in?" I hear you cry.  Ah well - to find that out, you'll have to come along…



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