We have less free will than we thought
By firing particles between buildings in Vienna, scientists have deduced that there is not as much free will in the universe as we like to think.
A study published in Physical Review Letter is attempting to put to be an argument regarding “quantum entanglement”.
The standard quantum theory dictates that all the particles in the universe have no definitive states – weirdly, that is, until they are measured.
Additionally, when two particles interact, they become entangled on a quantum, sub-atomic level and rid themselves of their individual probabilities.
The symbol for quantum entanglement
Albert Einstein first described this as “spooky action at a distance” as even though the two entangle particles could be at opposite ends of the universe, they are still connected some how as one of the two particles would be horizontally polarised, while the other would become vertically polarised.
The current tests from stems back to tests from 1964 carried out by Northern Irish physicist John Bell who managed to put this notion to the test.
As Quanta puts it: “He showed that if particles have definite states even when no one is looking (a concept known as ‘realism’) and if indeed no signal travels faster than light (‘locality’), then there is an upper limit to the amount of correlation that can be observed between the measured states of two particles.”
An illustration of quantum physics
However, experiments since have shown that entangled particles are more linked that Bell’s proposed upper limit.
Nonetheless, Bell also said that there is another problem for his formula – freedom.
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Andrew Friedman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a co-author of the recent study, said: “The three assumptions that go into Bell’s theorem that are relevant are locality, realism and freedom.
“Recently it’s been discovered that you can keep locality and realism by giving up just a little bit of freedom.”
Mr Friedman adds that the universe is like a restaurant with 10 options on the menu.
He said: “You think you can order any of the 10, but then they tell you, ‘We’re out of chicken,’ and it turns out only five of the things are really on the menu. You still have the freedom to choose from the remaining five, but you were over-counting your degrees of freedom.”
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Applying this to the laws of the universe, he adds: “There might be unknowns, constraints, boundary conditions, conservation laws that could end up limiting your choices in a very subtle way”, which violate the laws of local realism.”
This, the team behind the research says, could put to bed the notion of quantum entanglement, and potentially open the door to a new branch of physics.
If quantum physics is a bit over your head, remember that the late Richard Feynman, who is considered one of the godfathers of quantum physics, once said: "I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics”.