The first question you should ask is: Why now? Why didn't they write a lot about the ER-EPR correspondence when it was first published? The answer is that the Maldacena-Susskind preprint from June 2013 hasn't appeared in any classical journal. The journalists aren't able to follow preprints on the arXiv, they have no knowledgeable informers, and they are probably ignorant about the importance of names such as Maldacena and Susskind, too. So they missed it. They almost always do.
Let me analyze an article in some detail and clarify why I consider pretty much every sentence misleading. It could be done with many newspaper articles but I will pick International Business Time, a newspaper I have mostly no trouble with. It's useful. A young writer named Charles Poladian wrote a story
First of all, the title is sort of fine. Entanglement isn't really spooky but the term "spooky action" is written in the quotes which is fine because it's a quote by Albert Einstein. In his efforts to undermine quantum mechanics, he invented a catchy name for the quantum entanglement, a "spooky action at a distance", and it has become a synonym of "quantum entanglement".
There is nothing spooky about the quantum entanglement and there is no action at a distance in it, either, but it is Einstein's fault and not Poladian's fault that this phrase is misleading. Incidentally, the "spooky action at a distance" sounds even spookier in the German original: "spukhafte Fernwirkung". In this context, I can't avoid recalling the hilarious videos comparing German to other languages.
That was the title (I won't count it as a "sentence") but let's look at the body of the article:
Quantum entanglement is a rather weird theory of quantum mechanics, and new research is only adding more strangeness to the equation.One may say that it's a bizarre sentence for subtle reasons but these subtle reasons are enough to see that the author can't possibly know what he is talking about.
Quantum entanglement isn't really a "theory"; it is a "phenomenon" or, more precisely, a "feature" of quantum mechanics. The comment that quantum entanglement is a "theory of quantum mechanics" suggests that it is something based "on top of quantum mechanics", something that extends it or specifies it. But this ain't the case. Quantum entanglement is a completely universal feature of quantum mechanics, of any particular theory obeying the postulates of quantum mechanics (as long as it has at least two observables).
It is or isn't weird depending on how much we have gotten used to quantum mechanics as the right theory of the Universe but I won't criticize this adjective too much.
The second part of the sentence is highly problematic, too. The ER-EPR correspondence actually claims that two strange concepts in physics are related – well, they are the same – so it means that they are not independent anymore. There is only one independent strange thing if the correspondence is right and because one is smaller than two, the insight makes physics "less strange", not "more strange".
In fact, every advance in physics (or science) that represents a progress "reduces" the amount of strangeness in physics, when looked at from the right perspective, otherwise we wouldn't think it represents a progress. In this sense, the author can't understand the logic of science and its progress in general.
Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stony Brook University and the University of Washington believe quantum entanglement may be linked to wormholes.This second sentence is a spectacular misattribution of the insight. The insight mentioned in the sentence is from the researchers at Princeton and Stanford (who were exploiting the infrastructure of insights and feelings found by others as well), not these three universities.
Otherwise I honestly don't know why is Stony Brook included in this particular sentence. (TRF guest blogger) Andreas Karch is from UWash: that's OK. But Kristan Jensen is from University of Victoria, Canada. Their work – and its followup by Julian Sonner of MIT (who only says that by analytic continuation, the bulk dual may be interpreted as the tunneling instantons, something that was understood already by Susskind and Maldacena, I would say, certainly in the general case) – are just building upon the key insights that are being completely marginalized in this news article.
Wormholes may be the one aspect of theoretical physics most people are familiar with, a hypothetical "shortcut" through space and time.Well, it's almost OK except that this sentence – and the whole article – overlooks that they have to be non-traversable wormholes in order to be related to the entanglement. So they can't really be used as a shortcut to get elsewhere (to a normal region elsewhere in the Universe). So there's a big problem with the reference to the wormholes from the science-fiction movies but the following sentence is worse.
Quantum entanglement is the hypothetical state of two linked particles.Entanglement doesn't have to relate just two "particles" – it may be any two subsystems of a physical system. But what's much worse about this sentence is the word "hypothetical". There is nothing "hypothetical" about entanglement. Entanglement is as established a fact as the round shape of the Earth.
These entangled particles occupy multiple states of being at once, notes MIT.LOL, so MIT "notes" such things (it's some news server at the MIT so it's being noted not so much by MIT as by some popular writers over there who are comparably confused as the author of this very newspaper story); MIT is made look completely stupid because its "identity" is given by a popular writer rather than its actual experts (a typical tail wagging the dog).
An entangled state is not "multiple states at once", it is exactly one (pure) state of a type that wouldn't be allowed in classical physics. But even if you called superpositions "multiple states of being at once", entangled states in quantum mechanics are no more "multiple" than the generic quantum states of any object (including one particle) according to quantum mechanics. So the whole message attempting to convince the reader that the entangled states are something "new relatively to quantum mechanics" is completely wrong.
For examples, both particles could be spinning clockwise and counterclockwise, but once researchers observe one particle, their state becomes defined.Isn't it just one example? Why "examples"?
Otherwise, this sentence is mostly OK when we only demand "validity". But it's not appreciated by the writer that with some positivist attitude to physics, it is a tautology. Of course that the state of a particle becomes "defined" after the measurement. That's what the word "measurement" means. The measurement is something that determines the value of an observable – in other words, that makes the observable "defined".
The observed particle is spinning clockwise and the entangled particle will be observed to spin counterclockwise. If the observed particle's state changes, if it now spins counterclockwise, the entangled particle will change almost simultaneously.The first sentence is just meant to mention an example of the correlation (in the most typical examples of entangled pairs that have spin 0 and whose members have nonzero momentum, the helicities will actually be the same, not opposite, for both particles because the signs of the angular momenta will be the opposite due to the opposite momenta). But the following sentence shows that the author just doesn't get what quantum entanglement is. If one particle's spin becomes "defined", the other one is "defined" (and equal to the value determined by the correlation) immediately, and not just "almost simultaneously". There is no delay whatsoever.
Moreover, the other particle is not "changing" in any materialist sense. Its state was uncertain – "undefined" – and it becomes "defined" if and when we measure the spin (the spin of the first particle is enough because they are entangled i.e. correlated). Again, this comment is true even for a single particle: the measurement doesn't "change" the physical system, it just makes some properties of it "defined" and the new "defined" state is the one that we must treat as a fact while making new predictions.
Interestingly, this communication happens faster than the speed of light, hence the "spooky" part, according to the University of Washington.Again, a popular writer at a university is considered to "be" the university (he or she apparently has greater credentials to represent the university than Andreas Karch, the physicist, himself). Incidentally, the description "therefore spooky" would be wrong even for Einstein's (demagogic) justification of the phrase. The (apparent) superluminal speed is reflected in the words "at a distance" in the phrase; the word "spooky" referred to the fact that the (non-existing) communication is taking place even though we don't see any messengers that would transmit the information.
In the real world, the sentence is wrong because there is no "communication". This claim is valid even in the wormhole picture because the entanglement only links the interiors of the two black holes and because nothing can get out of the black holes, the two exterior regions can't "communicate" superluminally. So because there is no "communication", it makes no sense to talk about its speed. One can't transfer any information by exploiting quantum entanglement.
The new studies build off previous studies of wormholes, in which researchers suggested wormholes may be responsible for the communication between entangled particles. MIT cites a study, led by Juan Maldacena, from Princeton University, and Leonard Susskind, from Stanford University, that suggests that when two entangled black holes are separated they form a wormhole.This is truly bizarre because so far, the writer has only given a breathtakingly distorted popular view of the Maldacena-Susskind paradigm itself. He hasn't even attempted to offer a single word that would go "beyond" Maldacena-Susskind and discuss the followups. Otherwise Susskind and Maldacena didn't "lead" this study; they are the only two authors.
The MIT researchers, led by Julian Sonner, applied this theory to the creation of quarks, an elementary particle.Similarly, there is no "team" led by Julian Sonner; Sonner is the only author. Less importantly, I guess that the plural "quarks" shouldn't be followed by the singular "elementary particles" but English is not my native language.
According to Sonner's research, published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the creation of entangled quarks leads to the creation of a wormhole.Again, this is a clear misattribution. At this general level, the insight about the Euclidean instanton as the creation of a wormhole is due to Maldacena and Susskind, see e.g. section 2.4.
The research is based on string theory, a theoretical framework that tries to resolve general relativity, things happening on a vast scale, with quantum mechanics, things happening on a very small scale.I guess that "tries to resolve" should have been "reconciles".
Scientific American argues that, while it is interesting, the very theoretical nature of all of this puts a damper on the discovery.A problem with this way of writing story is that most things that Scientific American writes these days is tendentious junk and this proposition is no exception. The "very theoretical nature" makes it important and far-reaching.
All of the discussion and conclusions are based on models and the holographic principle.All of science is based on "models" in this general sense.
The ER-EPR correspondence doesn't "depend" on the holographic principle in any direct way. It's obviously compatible with the holographic principle but except for references, you won't even find the root "holograph" in the 48-page-long Maldacena-Susskind paper.
The quark-antiquark-pair examples in AdS/CFT obviously depend on the holographic principle because they're applications of the Maldacena-Susskind ER-EPR correspondence to the realm of the holographic AdS/CFT correspondence. But to use this fact as a "complaint" is as bizarre as a complaint that examples of Darwin's evolution involving animals depend on zoology. The comment is just totally stupid, especially as a would-be justification of the "damper put on the discovery".
As explained by Scientific American, the holographic principle "states that a quantum theory with gravity in a given space is equivalent to a quantum theory without gravity in a space with one less dimension that makes up the original space's boundary," leading to 3D projections without gravity that would be the same as 4D space with gravity.In general, Scientific American's caricatures of modern science are pathetic enough but in this case, the definition of the holographic principle turned out to be fine. It's the exception – a sentence in Scientific American that isn't painfully wrong or misleading – and I will count this as the only OK sentence of Paladian's article.
Due to the very nature of black holes, where nothing can escape their pull, communication or travel is impossible.Well, communication or travel is possible in one direction. What's bizarre about this sentence is its location, right after an explanation of the holographic principle. The role of this sentence would be understandable in the context where it is explained that neither quantum entanglement nor the non-traversable wormholes may be used for superluminal signalling but it's not here. The author copied some sentences but because he doesn't understand them, he permuted them so that the permutation doesn't make sense.
Andreas Karch of the University of Washington, whose work also was published in Physical Review Letters, says the findings indicate there are "two different mathematical machineries to go after the same physical process."Well, that's nice but this general principle or meme – the existence of "dualities" – is a key insight of much of theoretical physics of the last 20 years and Andreas Karch hasn't really pioneered it. Although he has done lots of very valuable work, he has not pioneered particular major examples of these "dualities" such as the AdS/CFT or ER-EPR, either. So again, it's bizarre to write this general comment at this place and to attribute it in this way.
The researchers are excited by these findings as it could lead to the long-sought resolution between quantum mechanics and Albert Einstein's theory of relativity, such as particles being able to communicate faster than the speed of light.They won't be able to communicate faster than light and Maldacena and Susskind who pioneered it already gave a full explanation why the superluminal communication is impossible in the wormhole description, too: it is because the wormholes are not traversable. The idea about the "need for some superluminal communication" is a misconception held by the incompetent folks and this misconception is surely not needed to reconcile general relativity and quantum mechanics in any way or sense.
If I haven't overlooked a sentence, I think that there has been one sentence (copied from a randomly acceptable sentence in Scientific American) in this article that was free of major distortions, misconceptions, or failures of logic. And I happen to think that one OK sentence is too little for a tolerable article.
I want to emphasize that Charles Paladian's article was picked somewhat randomly – most other articles about theoretical physics in the mass media suck comparably. The whole occupation of science writers has turned into a cesspool which is why Mr Paladian shouldn't take this criticism personally. He is just one example of the object we may find floating in a cesspool.
And that's the memo.
(Incidentally, Katia Moskvitch's story for the Science Magazine is much better and indeed, this is not the first thumbs-up for this writer you may find on my blog.)