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Quantum Entangled Drumheads Show “Spooky Action” on the Macro Scale

Good old quantum physics, probably the most misinterpreted field of scientific research and, at the same time, the strangest and most mysterious. Strange quantum phenomena (like these) seem like magic in the way they defy how we see physics working in our day to day lives—neutrinos exist in different states of being all at the same time, quantum tunneling particles pass through solid objects, subatomic particles are both particles, waves, and non-local fields, two quantum entangled particles affect each other instantaneously no matter the distance. Albert Einstein described the “non-locality” of quantum entanglement as “spooky action at a distance.” Yep, it’s the field of hard science that’s best described as “spooky.”

While the weirdest parts of quantum mechanics are usually only seen in the very small, subatomic layers of existence there’s no reason why these strange behaviors couldn’t be seen at the macro scale—broadly speaking, the range of sizes visible to the naked eye—it’s just really hard, and it been done before. There’s too much noise and energy in our surrounding environment for quantum strangeness to really occur. A new paper however reveals that scientists in Finland have, for the first time, demonstrated quantum entanglement of two objects that are visible to the naked eye.

Quantum entanglement Albert Einstein

The spooky fellow himself, Albert Einstein

The experiment was conducted in the lab of Professor Mika Sillanpää at Finland’s Aalto University and the results were published in the journal Nature. The team of scientists were able to bring two “drumheads” into a state of quantum entanglement, showing that objects are subject to the same laws of quantum physics as the particles that make up atoms.

Lets back up a tiny bit. What is quantum entanglement? According to Science Daily:

Quantum entanglement is a quantum mechanical phenomenon in which the quantum states of two or more objects have to be described with reference to each other, even though the individual objects may be spatially separated.

Oh great, now we have to explain the explanation. Thanks, science. Mysterious Universe wrote extensively about quantum entanglement when the last round of weird experiments were done, check it out for a more detailed explanation.

The double slit experiment is a classic example of quantum weirdness.

Back to the experiment at hand. The team in Finland set up two “microfabricated vibrating circular membranes,” described as drumheads and, through careful oscillation of attached superconductors, were able to bring them into a state of quantum entanglement.  The membranes were very small by our standards, the width of a human hair, but absolutely huge on the atomic scale. We’ve previously only seen quantum entanglement on the subatomic level, and each of the membranes had trillions of atoms.

Matt Woolley, who worked on the project, says there are incredible implications for both the fundamental study of quantum mechanics and the use of quantum entanglement in machines and other real-world applications:

While the processing power of a future quantum computer might rely on microwaves in a low-temperature laboratory environment, quantum communications systems require light propagating through optical fibers or free space.

[Quantum controlled] mechanical systems can act as intermediaries between these worlds and thereby contribute to the realization of a quantum internet.

On the fundamentals:

this demonstration gives us greater confidence that the laws of quantum physics do indeed apply to large objects.

Another way to put it might be reality is incredibly strange and we just demonstrated that it’s stranger than we knew. Also it’s going to be really fun when people completely misinterpret this experiment and use it as proof of the ridiculous. In a world of high strangeness, probability clouds, and quantum uncertainty, that’s one thing pretty much guaranteed.