Sunday, November 23, 2014

A new day will dawn when we embrace entanglement

This essay was published in the Concord Monitor 12/7/14
Echo Lake, Franconia NH
CC Jean Stimmell: September 2014
Maybe it’s because of my hippie past, but I have always been fascinated by the idea of “entanglement.”  Entanglement is the theory that once two objects or particles have interacted with one another, they will be forever joined; thereafter, whatever happens to one will instantly happen to the other, even if one has moved to the other side of the universe.

The notion of entanglement comes from quantum physics and was first proposed in the 1970s by a group of underemployed, alternative-thinking, hippie physicists, outliers whom many in the “scientific community considered to be a threat to the very foundation of Western rationality.”⁠1 Even the broad-minded Einstein was scornful of such “spooky actions at a distance.” 

Yet, over the years, after many rigorous experiments designed to test the validity of entanglement, the tables have turned. This outrageous theory, originally scorned by critics as a hallucination by misguided mystics and drop-outs, is now pretty much accepted by mainstream science. 

As the New York Times recently noted, the theory of entanglement is now all but proven. The final verification depends on one last experiment which is now ongoing; if the results come back negative as scientists expect, it will be a done deal. ⁠2

What does this all mean?  

The ramifications are potentially mind-blowing! That is what excites me and has motivated me to follow this story throughout the years.  Entanglement, to me, is a paradigm shifting event in the history of science, as momentous as discovering gravity or that the earth is flat.  It changes everything by re-introducing mystery back into our staid and small-minded world. 

Rather than smugly knowing everything, suddenly we will know nothing. Our mouths will gape open in awe at possibilities beyond comprehension.

As it was in the beginning, we will see the world as it really is –  as through the eyes of a child, a mystic, an indigenous person, or an artist. As the poet Christian Wiman has written: “If quantum entanglement is true, if related particles react in similar or opposite ways even when separated by tremendous distances, then it is obvious that the whole world is alive and communicating in ways we do not fully understand. And we are part of that life, part of that communication.”⁠3

My hope is that this idea of entanglement has legs enough to shift us from our present ideology of rampant individualism – a death spiral of  dog-eat-dog  competition – to the creation of a new vision for humanity where we can all live peaceably together in interdependent community, nested in our own precious niche within ever-widening ecosystems, participating directly in the wonder and mystery of Life.

1 Let’s Be Fysiksists Again Matthew Wisnioski.  SCIENCE VOL 332 24 JUNE 2011
2 Is Quantum Entanglement Real?
NYT 11/14/14
3 My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer by Christian Wiman p.33
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