(originally posted 9/18/2016)
Just before my hand reached the door of my car, my dog jumping and fidgeting in a hyper manner to my right in her enthusiasm to depart said vehicle, my other hand produced an Ipod from my pocket. My dog leaving the car would have to wait a tick as what sat in my hand defied all logical explanation. The chord to my headphones was tangled.
Only minutes before I had untangled them before putting them in my pocket. In the course of a five minute car ride they had become tangled again. From sitting motionless in my pocket.
Instead of doing what I would typically do and rip and tear at them while peppering the air with profanities I took a breath and examined them a little closer. There was no doubt about it, what I was observing was physically impossible. They were tangled and knotted in such a way that could not have happened in five minutes if I gave them to someone who’s sole task was to spend those three hundred seconds tangling them and tying them in knots.
I was holding something in a state that I could not be holding it.
Which is a very similar sentiment held by many physicists about quantum entanglement. For those of you who do not know what quantum entanglement is let me give you a quick definition lest you miss the full impact of the soul-rousing conclusion I have in store for you. Quantum entanglement is a physical phenomenon that occurs when pairs of particles are generated or interact in ways such that the quantum state of each particle cannot be described independently of the others, even when the particles are separated by a large distance – instead, a quantum state must be described for the system as a whole. In other words, one particle of an entangled pair “knows” what measurement has been performed on the other, and with what outcome, even though there is no known means for such information to be communicated between the particles, which at the time of measurement may be separated by arbitrarily large distances.
As I sat holding my tangled headphones I couldn’t help feeling that both realities involved some sort of sorcery.
I wasn’t until I was deep in the woods with my dog that it hit me that people become entangled as well. In the fashion of my headphones and, if the physics behind quantum entanglement can be believed, connected to one other person in a way that appears to be nothing short of creepy and wonderful at the same time.
I believe I recently unknowingly conducted an experiment that could help to prove or disprove said theory, one involving sitting alone in my living room with a guitar singing a song at the top of my lungs in the hope that a certain girl several million miles away would think of me for reasons she could not fully understand.
Tests have to date proved inconclusive.
Maybe she is just another knot in my headphone cord.
Long walks in the woods typically help me untangle life’s little problems but in this case I felt like many of the early physicists who couldn’t quite make the leap from what works on paper to what they actually believe.
Then I thought of another person who spent a great deal of time hiking through woods, Henry David Thoreau, and his observation “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see” and the rest of the walk was delightful.
He would have made a great physicist.