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Scientists make historic breakthrough in quantum entanglement

Scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have uncovered a new kind of quantum entanglement, giving us an insight into a freaky phenomenon that causes particles to be intrinsically linked across cosmic distances.

We’re about to explain a scientific phenomenon that once bamboozled a certain Albert Einstein, so grab a coffee and strap in.

Scientists at the Brookhaven National Laboratory have completed a mind-bending study which sheds some light on the mystery of quantum entanglement.

In simple terms, this curious wonder refers to the idea that atoms – the building blocks of all known matter – can be intrinsically linked, even if separated by billions of light-years of space. Despite incomprehensible distances between them, a change induced in one will theoretically affect the other. Crazy, right?

For the sake of scale, picture two dice on different sides of the planet. Imagine that each time both are thrown, they come to a total of 7 with a 100% success rate. This is because they’re communicating in an instant through the process of entanglement.

The idea was originally posited by the brilliant mind of physicist John Bell in 1964, perplexing fellow visionary Einstein, who described his entanglement conclusions as ‘spooky action at a distance.’

Only ratified by research groups as recently as 2015, Bell’s basic theorem has since been explored in several high profile experiments. The latest breakthrough achieved by scientists at Brookhaven captured an unprecedented glimpse into the obscure nature of atoms.

The discoveries took place at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, a special facility in Brookhaven, New York, which is capable of accelerating charged atoms (known as ions) to almost light speed.

When these ions collide or pass by one another, their interactions reveal more about the inner workings of atoms and bring us closer to discovering the biggest secrets of the universe and the trippy laws of quantum mechanics.

In previous examinations of entanglement, scientists had observed only particles of the same group and the same charge syncing up in behaviours such as spinning or momentum. Photons for example, which have no charge or electrons and are negatively charged, had been found to bond even billions of light years apart.

This latest breakthrough in NYC has majorly shifted our perception of entanglement, however, with the discovery that this phenomenon can in-fact occur in two particles with different charges.

‘There’s never been any measurement in the past of interference between distinguishable particles,’ says Daniel Brandenburg, a physics professor at the Ohio State University who co-authored the study.

Brandenburg and his colleagues recorded this event using a state-of-the-art detector called the Solenoidal Tracker at RHIC (or STAR) to capture interactions of gold ions travelling at near the speed of light.

Clouds of photons surrounded the ions and interacted with gluons that were present – a particle that holds atomic nuclei together. From this, two entirely two particles were born called pions, and this is where the breakthrough in entanglement was witnessed.

STAR helped to measure the key properties of both including velocity and angle of impact, as well as their individual arrangements of gluons. From this, it was determined that both had different charges and yet were still entangled.

‘By looking at different nuclei and by looking at this process at higher precision, we can start to learn more and more details,’ Brandenburg concluded. ‘What we did here is a proof of concept, but there’s a lot more opportunity.’

Wanting to repeat the technique at the RHIC and other facilities such as the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, Brandenburg is determined to uncover the secrets of atomic nuclei.

Will quantum computing ever really take off in the real world? It seems we’re strides closer to finding out.