What is quantum entanglement? Nobody this side of Heaven really knows. In one of his more memorable quotes, Einstein called it “spooky action at a distance”.
For those who are unfamiliar with quantum entanglement, it was first theorized by Einstein and two other scientists, and the term ‘entanglement’ was first coined by Erwin Schrödinger in his famous “Schrödinger’s cat” thought experiment.
What quantum entanglement means, to greatly simplify the matter, is that if two particles are entangled, if you observe the state of one particle, then the other particle will be in the same state… except that as soon as one particle is observed in any way, the other particle is automatically disentangled and is forced to take on its own state.
If that makes no sense to you, well, you’re not alone. Physicists can describe what is happening, but none know why it is happening.
I first began reading up on quantum entanglement for a short story I was writing about four years ago… and I found out that research had by then shown that not only quantum particles could be entangled, but such entanglement could be found between complex particles such as atoms and even molecules at significant distances… and apparently, even across discrete periods of time.
I realized then that if complex molecules – which can be a billion times or more larger than elementary particles like quarks – can be entangled in the same manner as quarks then there should be no reason that entanglement would not affect our very bodies, and even be seen or felt by our consciousnesses!
For instance, we’ve all heard of “sympathy pains”, which are called “Couvade syndrome” by the scientific community. Symptoms experienced by the partner can include:
stomach pain, indigestion, changes in appetite, weight gain, diarrhea, constipation, headache, toothache, cravings, nausea, breast augmentation, hardening of the nipple and insomnia. In some extreme cases, fathers can grow a belly similar to a 7-month pregnant woman and gain approximately 25 to 30 pounds.
Could this be an example of entanglement on the macro level? Perhaps, but that’s not the only possible example. We’ve probably all heard of instances where a woman suddenly ‘knew’ when something bad happened to her child or her husband, or of identical twins who were raised apart but led almost identical lives. Just today came the news of two identical 92 year-old twins who died within hours of each other…both by heart failure.
We’ve probably all felt Déjà vu, the experience of feeling sure that one has already witnessed or experienced a current situation, even though the exact circumstances of the previous encounter are uncertain and were perhaps imagined. Personally, I know that I’ve dreamed locations and events that later occurred, accompanied by the sensation of déjà vu… and I’m sure that many readers of this article have felt the same. Now think back to the indications that entanglement may take place across time. Is the sensation of déjà vu an actual experience of “spooky action at a distance” in time? I suspect it is. It’s not proven, but – no pun intended – time will tell.
But the interesting observations don’t stop there. Most of us have seen a flock of starlings flying in formation, all turning, swooping, diving seemingly at the same time…and we’ve all seen (if only on the television) schools of fish doing the same thing. Theories abound for the reasons why birds and fish are able to do this… but the theories of how they’re able to do this are another matter entirely. If the possibility that quantum mechanics might explain how this happens sounds unlikely, consider this: as early as 2000 physicists at the University of Oxford and the University of Singapore published indications that migratory birds use quantum entanglement effects to navigate.
Curiouser and curiouser! It’s gotten so interesting that a new field of scientific study appears to be taking shape: Quantum Biology, the study of how quantum entanglement affects our bodies, our sensory experiences, and even our conscious decisions.
Betcha didn’t see that coming!
There’s a school of thought in psychology called gestalt psychology. The way it was explained to me way back in Psych 101 was that some people come to understanding from the bottom up, by working on the details and putting together the pieces of the puzzle… while others work from the top down, so to speak. After seeing some of the pieces of the puzzle, the person experiences the gestalt and suddenly understands not the details or individual pieces of the puzzle, but instead grasps the overall framework, the scheme of the puzzle.
I agree with this concept because while I honestly suck at details (as several other BC residents can attest), I do often grasp the overall picture, the extrapolations of a concept, even if the details of that concept are not yet known. It is then with no small sense of satisfaction that I can honestly state that I saw where this was going four years ago, where it had to go. If the physicists are right, then it takes but little imagination to see that we do, we must actually experience quantum entanglement in our lives and even in our very awareness.
I normally don’t like making predictions… but while I will never know all the details well enough to speak with authority on the subject, I do feel that I understand the overall concept well enough to predict that as time goes on, biological quantum entanglement will be declared by the scientific community as the overriding factor behind not only what I described above – Déjà vu, sympathy pains, the experiences of identical twins, the behavior patterns of flocks of starlings and schools of fish – but also “mob psychology”, the phenomenon wherein good people who are caught up in crowds wind up doing things that they would never normally do otherwise.
But I cannot honestly take credit for such predictions. I would say that credit would belong to Isaac Asimov, one of the ‘grandmasters’ of the Golden Age of Science Fiction. In his ground-breaking Foundation Series (the first of which was published way back in 1942(!)), he postulated a branch of mathematics known as “psychohistory”, which was:
a concept of mathematical sociology (analogous to mathematical physics). Using the law of mass action, it can predict the future, but only on a large scale; it is error-prone on a small scale. It works on the principle that the behaviour of a mass of people is predictable if the quantity of this mass is very large…. The larger the number, the more predictable is the future.
It is apparent to me that Isaac Asimov was closer to the truth than he could have imagined… but instead of “psychohistory”, it will be called “quantum biology” or – more accurately – “quantum psychology”.