"Spooky action at a distance" is how Albert Einstein once dismissed the theory that two elementary particles far removed from each other could nonetheless influence each other's property. Recently, several physicists, including notably the author of this book, have defended this hypothesis, even conducting experiments to verify it. Dance of the Photons tracks scientific choreography that sometimes tiptoes close to science fiction.
Dance of the Photons: From Einstein to Quantum Teleportationby Anton Zeilinger
Einstein's steadfast refusal to accept certain aspects of quantum theory was rooted in his insistence that physics has to be about reality. Accordingly, he once derided as "spooky action at a distance" the notion that two elementary particles far removed from each other could nonetheless influence each other's propertiesa hypothetical phenomenon his fellow… See more details below
Einstein's steadfast refusal to accept certain aspects of quantum theory was rooted in his insistence that physics has to be about reality. Accordingly, he once derided as "spooky action at a distance" the notion that two elementary particles far removed from each other could nonetheless influence each other's propertiesa hypothetical phenomenon his fellow theorist Erwin Schrödinger termed "quantum entanglement."
In a series of ingenious experiments conducted in various locationsfrom a dank sewage tunnel under the Danube River to the balmy air between a pair of mountain peaks in the Canary Islandsthe author and his colleagues have demonstrated the reality of such entanglement using photons, or light quanta, created by laser beams. In principle the lessons learned may be applicable in other areas, including the eventual development of quantum computers.
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“Those seeking an accessible popular account of this fascinating field will find their search over . . . Taking some of the most complex ideas from cutting-edge science, Zeilinger provides simple and clear explanations that in no way compromise the fundamental concepts.” Jeremy L. O'Brian, Science
“From the sewers under Vienna to a whirlwind tour of the great physicists of the twentieth century and their wild ideas, this is a marvelous introduction to the world of quantum physics by one of the most accomplished experimenters working in the field today. Zeilinger takes the reader on a very personal journey while providing a remarkably clear and cogent discussion of the mind-bending world of quantum mechanics and its potential to change the future of technology.” Lawrence M. Krauss, director of the Origins Initiative at Arizona State University and author of Quantum Man: Richard Feynman's Life in Science
“Anton Zeilinger's Dance of the Photons is a delight. The explanations of some of the most subtle and unexpected effects of quantum physics are provided in terms of beautifully simple and charming everyday settings. The true flavor of quantum mechanics is here made accessible, without pain but with considerable good humor.” Roger Penrose, emeritus professor of mathematics, Oxford University, and author, most recently, of The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe
“For more than eighty years the bizarre features of the description of nature at the atomic level given by quantum mechanics have puzzled and fascinated the physics community, but it is only in recent years that many of these features have been verified by experiment. This delightful little book, by one of the world's leading practitioners in this area, explains these recent advances in a way that should be accessible even to readers with no physics background.” Anthony J. Leggett, professor of physics, University of Illinois, and winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physics
“Anton Zeilinger has done more than anyone to unfold the quantum world by fashioning amazing experiments that have allowed nature to speak to us in her own native quantum language. In this clearly and elegantly written book he takes the reader on the journey he and his colleagues have traveled in their interrogations of the quantum world. Along the way he introduces us to the new concept of quantum information and explains its promise to revolutionize how we communicate and compute.” Lee Smolin, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics
“Anton Zeilinger's exposition of this puzzling subject is clear and vivid, and backed by a voice of authority that could only come from his being a leading experimenter in the field.” A. Zee, author of Fearful Symmetry, Einstein's Universe, and Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell
A complex but ultimately rewarding exploration of the weird world of quantum physics, which describes the behavior of atomic and subatomic particles.
For example, light moves in both waves and particles, depending on the experiment. Quantum measurements can't precisely locate a particle such as an electron, and a researcher can only give statistical odds that it's in a particular spot (anywhere in the universe!). Einstein detested this idea, insisting that the description of light is wrong and that every electron is someplace. In his first book in English, Austrian physicist Zeilinger (Physics/Univ. of Vienna) defends the majority view: Quantum descriptions seem bizarre, but that's the reality. Treading carefully, the author introduces two college freshmen, Bob and Alice, eager for a taste of quantum physics. Obligingly, their professor places each in distant rooms with a detector connected to a central source that emits light particles that trigger both detectors. Their assignment is to explain what's happening—not a simple goal because each pair of photons is "entangled," a quantum concept that means they are linked no matter how far they are separated. A change in one is instantly reflected in the other. Einstein dreamed up entanglement in 1935, explaining that it's consistent with quantum laws but so absurd that it shows the theory's defects. Amazingly, experiments proved that entanglement not only exists but has practical applications in computing, cryptography and even teleportation—of subatomic particles. Zeilinger uses simple diagrams and cheerful dialogues between Bob and Alice to make a difficult concept somewhat less difficult.
Not for the scientifically disinclined, but readers who pay close attention will grasp a strange but fascinating scientific principle.
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Read an Excerpt
Dance of the PhotonsFrom Einstein to Quantum Teleportation
By Anton Zeilinger
Farrar, Straus and GirouxCopyright © 2010 Anton Zeilinger
All right reserved.
DANCE OF THE PHOTONS
SPACE TRAVELWhen we hear of teleportation, we often think it would be an ideal means of traveling. We would simply disappear from wherever we happened to be and reappear immediately at our destination. The tantalizing part is that this would be the fastest possible way of traveling. Yet, a warning might be in order here: teleportation as a means of travel is still science fiction rather than science.Thus far, people have only been able to travel to the Moon, which on a cosmic scale is extremely close, the equivalent of our backyard. Within our solar system, the closest planets, Venus and Mars, are already roughly a thousand times more distant than the Moon, to say nothing of the planets farther out in the solar system.It is interesting to consider how long it would take to go to other stars. As we all remember from the Apollo program, which put the first men on the Moon, it takes about four days to go from Earth to the Moon. Traveling by spaceship from Earth to the planet Mars would take on the order of 260 days, one way. It is evident that our space travelers would get quite bored during that time, so they might make good use of their time by performing experiments involving quantum teleportation.In order to get even farther out, we might use the accelerating force of other planets or even of Earth itself, as has been done with some of the unmanned spacecraft exploring outer planets. The idea is simply to have the spaceship pass close by a planet so that, by means of a sort of slingshot action, it can be accelerated into a new orbit that carries it much farther outward. For example, using these methods, the spacecraft Pioneer 10 took about eleven years to travel past the outermost planets of the solar system on its probably unending journey into thespace between the stars. We can thus estimate that it will, for example, take Pioneer 10 about 100,000 years to get to Proxima Centauri, the closest star except for the Sun, at its current speed.Perhaps, therefore, it would be good to have some other way to get around, to cover large distances. What we want is to travel anywhere instantly, without any limitation on how far we can go. Is that possible, at least in principle? This is why science-fiction writers invented teleportation. Magically, you disappear from one place, and, magically, you reappear at another place, just an instant later.Copyright © 2010 by Anton Zeilinger
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Meet the Author
Anton Zeilinger is a professor of physics at the University of Vienna, where he heads the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.
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Prof. Zeilinger and his group on Austria have pioneered a lot of techniques in Quantum teleportation and quantum communications. This book is the authoritative account of the mind bending science and reality of these pioneers in quanum computers and communication for the informed lay person. Zeilinger missed the 2012 Nobel Prize to Serge Haroche and American scientist but his contributions are in that stratospheric level.