The Tech Herald

Do sub atomic particles communicate at 10,000 times the speed of light?

by Rich Bowden - Aug 14 2008, 04:50

Img: Albert Einstein, 1947. The great man dismissed quantum entanglement calling it "spooky action". Credit: O. Jack Turner

In the bizarre world of sub atomic quantum physics, one of the weirder applications is the theory of quantum entanglement -- where particles become entangled and whatever happens to one of the linked objects, affects the other, no matter how far apart they are.

The effect, dubbed "spooky" by Einstein has long intrigued physicists in their attempt to discover how it is that both objects can "signal" each other at distance. Experiments have ruled out any such force being transmitted within the world of classical physics which states that nothing can move faster than the speed of light, yet the intriguing possibility has remained that there is a yet-to-be-identified "X-factor" force which communicates between the two sub atomic particles.

Now researchers at the University of Geneva have split up entangled pairs of photons, or packets of light, and sent them over two optical fibre cables to stations at two Swiss villages some 11 miles (18 kilometers) apart from each other. The stations confirmed that each pair of photons had remained entangled and by analyzing one, scientists could predict aspects of its partner, reported LiveScience.

Measurements taken from the separate sites showed that for any hidden signal to travel from one station to the other in just 300 trillionths of a second the rapidity at which the stations could accurately detect the photons any such x-factor force had to travel at least 10,000 times the speed of light, the report claimed.

Nicolas Gisin, a physicist at the University of Geneva told LiveScience that, if there is such a force, it clearly renders implausible the classical physics law that nothing can travel faster than light and added: "what's fascinating here is that we see that nature is able to produce events that can manifest themselves at several locations."

"In a sense, these instantaneous events "seem to happen from outside space-time, in that it's not a story you can tell within space-time," Gisin told LiveScience. "This is something that an entire community of scientists is already studying very intensively."

Gisin and his colleagues have published their findings in the August 14 issue of the journal Nature.




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