Monday, April 03, 2006

Till death do us part - Answer : II

A particle sneezes on a star,
Black space parts to nature's prodigal hack,
Galactic cold warms a road of dark tar,
Another entangled sneeze, echoes back.

As I began to write the second part of this answer, I realized that I might have bitten more than I can chew. Making sense of that equation without the aid of mathematical jargon is an uphill task to say the least. But since I have to answer my own question (not strictly true - but humour me), I might as well give it a try.

The equation owes its origin in the very murky waters of that most modern of modern sciences called Quantum Mechanics (QM). I'll not make an attempt to explain things from the very beginning, so we start with a set of assumptions from the physical world.

Let us assume everything in the physical world is made up of matter (and/or energy). All big matter is made up of small matter; and small matter is made of smaller matter still, till we get down to molecules which are made of atoms. Atoms in turn are made up of other fundamental particles viz. protons, neutrons and electrons. And we will not venture further down (believe me when I say that you don't want to hear all the quarky details.)

QM is the science which deals with behaviour of these particles. These particles have various properties such as charge (the same positive/negative thing which makes batteries work) and spin (think of this as a spin of a top, though any quantum mechanics professor would probably shoot me if she came to know I said such a thing, but still think of it thus). Now assume that electron (the guy with the -ve charge) can have two types of spin, like say clockwise and counter-clockwise (have mercy on me O God of Quantum Mechanics, for I know not what I do!).

Now, QM says that (black magic begins) an electron, exists is a superposition (or mix) of both the spin states when left to itself. It is only when we catch hold of the electron and measure its spin, does it drop into one of the two possible spin states (this is NOT the microscopic basis of schizophrenia, no matter what you believe!).

Now we take two such electrons, and perform on them a charm (a la Harry Potter) to get an entangled system, they are bound forever. For if ever I measure the spin of one, the other electron automatically drops to the opposite spin state. This property is called Quantum Entanglement. Curiously, this entanglement works even when the two electrons are separated by galactic distances. The equation, is a mathematician's way of writing such an entangled system, concisely.

The eternal bond between two separate physical entities is thus the common theme which joins these two pictures. And so the answer to my question lies in this most fascinating word, Entanglement.


Apology to purists: I have met enough men of scientific rigour to fully expect a chide for the way in which I have dealt out my explanation of this very meticulous science. I apologize, but it is entirely beyond me to keep this perfectly accurate and keep the explanation seemingly understandable at the same time.


  1. This is awfully confusing, you know...

  2. Nice descriptions. Both parts. So where is my treat for answering the question correctly?

  3. i always used to think of a spinning top whenever i read about clockwise and counter clockwise spins!
    *ducking to avoid QM professor's blow*

    On a diff. note, learning quantum mechanics was the only thing i learned in school and college that fascinated me!

  4. @sue: Ya, I know... unfortunately I cannot make it any less confusing.

    @treefrog: Sure. Your treat is very much due... do let me know when n where!

    @sonia: :) Ya... I tried to figure out what the spin physically means, and I am sure you wouldn't want to know what I found out! :D Definitely fascinating though.

  5. Ack! That made my head reel!