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Untangling the secrets of quantum entanglement

By Xu Ying | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-09-07 17:03

Composite photo taken on Dec 9, 2016 shows a satellite-to-earth link established between quantum satellite "Micius" and the quantum teleportation experiment platform in Ali, Southwest China's Tibet autonomous region. [Photo/Xinhua]

A team of scientists in China recently announced an exciting new discovery in the field of quantum physics. They were able to generate and observe an extremely large-scale quantum phenomenon called entanglement among particles of light. This achievement could bring us one step closer to futuristic technologies like quantum computers.

So what exactly is quantum entanglement? Put simply, it means that certain particles can become so closely linked that they share a single quantum state. This remains true even when the entangled particles are separated by huge distances.

This bizarre behavior defies our everyday intuitions. To understand it, we need to dive into the realm of quantum mechanics – the rules that govern the tiny fundamental particles making up everything we see.

At the smallest scale, particles act like fuzzy waves of possibilities until they are measured and become concrete things. Entangled particles act as a single fuzzy wave even when far apart. Observing one instantly affects the other, a "spooky action at a distance” that puzzled Einstein.

Researchers think entanglement could be a key ingredient for powerful quantum technologies. The tricky part has been generating and maintaining entanglement across large numbers of particles. That's what the Chinese team's discovery has accomplished.

They used laser beams to link thousands of atoms in a grid, creating an entangled state. This 2D lattice of entangled particles isn't useful yet, but it's proof of concept for scaling up usable quantum systems.

Practical quantum computers or sensors could one day drastically change our lives. They might speed up chemical modeling, financial data analysis, AI systems and more. We're still early in the quantum revolution, but discoveries like this entanglement breakthrough inch us closer.

But beyond practical perks, deciphering quantum concepts like entanglement might just shake up our whole worldview. Learning the counterintuitive rules governing reality's deepest workings could reveal flaws in how we naturally think about space, time and information. And we'll keep questioning, keep digging and keep discovering, ever in awe of the magic at work beneath it all.

The author is a Beijing-based commentator. The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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