Nobel Prize in Physics for 2022 was recently awarded to Alain Aspect, John F. Clauser, and Anton Zeilinger for their contributions to the field of Quantum Physics. Collectively, these scientists determined that hidden variables postulated to exist by Albert Einstein actually do not exist. Their collective discoveries will have a profound effect on quantum physics moving forward, including the development of quantum cryptography and quantum computing.
The Spooky Action of Quantum Physics
It's been described as "spooky action at a distance" by Einstein. The concept of entanglement, or the idea that two particles separated by vast influences exert influence upon one another, is the crux of quantum physics and is at once counterintuitive and a little strange.
2022 Nobel Prize in Physics honorees Aspect, Clauser, and Zeilinger confirmed the troubling phenomenon in quantum physics. The discovery that hidden variables do not, in fact, exist will launch a technological revolution. All three scientists will share in honor and split the prize of 10 million Krona (roughly $915,000).
The Nobel Committee stated that the prize was jointly awarded to the trio due to each one's separate contributions and "experiments with entangled photons, establishing the violation of Bell inequalities, and pioneering quantum information science."
Entanglement and Quantum Mechanics – Groundbreaking Advances
Ulf Danielsson, an Uppsala University professor of theoretical physics and member of the Nobel Prize committee, acknowledges the extraordinary work these three scientists completed. "The groundbreaking experiments of Clauser, Aspect, and Zeilinger show that this mind-boggling phenomenon persists at macroscopic distances, demonstrating the deficiency of our classical intuition."
Entanglement is one of the most fascinating aspects of modern quantum mechanics. Danielsson clarifies entanglement for us: "[entanglement is] where widely separated particles can be prepared so that they behave as a single unit"
But, he continues, the concept of instant quantum connection isn't accounted for in classical physics – the study of objects interacting in the everyday world. Quantum connections were initially theoretical, but the work of the three researchers furthered the theoretical to the practical. Secure communications using quantum cryptography is a viable future application. And quantum computers with staggering power are also on the horizon.
Did We Prove Einstein Wrong?
One of the consequences of quantum theory is entanglement, wherein two particles separated by space and time are inexplicitly linked. A change to one of the particles will affect the other instantaneously and independent of space and time. In the quantum realm, it would seem effect precedes cause.
However, measuring changes can be complicated. When two particles are connected via entanglement, measuring the quality of one variable immediately causes a change in the other, which will adopt either a corresponding or opposite value. The change in the second particle occurs even if the two particles are on opposite sides of the universe.
Entanglement influenced the idea of "Local Realism," a quantum physics concept first postulated in the 1930s. Local Realism states that all particles possess defined properties for any possible measurement and that communication between particles is limited to the speed of light. But, the instantaneous effect of entanglement turns local realism on its head and questions one of the core tenets of special relativity: nothing can travel faster than light.
The Future of Quantum Physics
With the recent advances in the science of quantum physics, the practical applications of the research by the three prize winners is enormous. From secure communications to accelerated computing, quantum physics will impact all aspects of modern life.
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