What could be the world’s largest quantum physics experiment is happening today, 30 November 2016, and researchers need people from all over the world to get involved by helping them test the laws of quantum mechanics.
The experiment, run by 12 different labs around the world, will test Albert Einstein’s idea of local realism – one of the fundamental principles of quantum mechanics. All you have to do to help out is play a bunch of online games for science.
So, what will all your gaming efforts achieve? Basically, local realism is an attempt to overcome what Einstein referred to as “spooky action at a distance.”
In quantum mechanics, there are two things to keep in mind. First, particles don’t have a distinct value until they’re measured. And secondly, when two particles are entangled, one of them will immediately affect its entangled partner, no matter how physically far apart they are.
Einstein didn’t like that, because, in theory, it seems to violate the speed of light – hence the “spooky action” quote.
So he came up with the idea of local realism, which assumes that a particle must objectively have a pre-existing value for any possible measurement – and that way, information doesn’t actually travel between two entangled particles faster than the speed of light.
Since then, researchers have come up with a test to measure whether or not information is actually travelling between entangled particles, known as the Bell inequality test.
And if it’s violated in actual experiments, it implies that quantum mechanics violates either locality or realism, and the idea of local realism (and Einstein’s hypothesis) therefore cannot be correct.
Several experiments over the past few years have reportedly violated Bell’s inequality – last year, the first Bell’s inequality experiment was completed without loopholes, but there’s still dispute over whether or not local realism actually holds up.
The new worldwide experiment aims to settle the matter once and for all, by using a huge amount of random, user-generated data to test Bell’s inequality.
Basically, the researchers are holding what’s called the ‘BIG Bell Test: worldwide quantum experiments powered by human randomness‘, and they aim to conduct a range of Bell’s inequality tests around the world, controlled by human decisions made by volunteers (which they call Bellsters).
The experiment needs at least 30,000 volunteers from all over the world, and of all ages, to take part in order to generate enough random data to properly test out Bell’s inequality.
You do this by playing a game where you have to introduce the most random sequences of 0s and 1s as possible. These sequences you generate in your game will determine the order of measurement of quantum entangled particles in each lab around the world.
The loophole-free Bell’s test last year was similar, but it used a physical random number generator to come up with this data, whereas the new experiment will try to generate even more randomness using the brains trust of the internet.
The games are accessible to people of all ages, and all you need is an internet connection.
If you pass all the levels, you’ll have generated enough random sequences of information to help the scientists complete their Bell’s inequality test.
Click here to get involved. For science!