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Einstein's steadfast refusal to accept certain aspects of quantum theory was rooted in his insistence that physics has to be about reality. Accordingly, he once derided as "spooky action at a distance" the notion that two elementary particles far removed from each other could nonetheless influence each other's properties—a hypothetical phenomenon his fellow theorist Erwin Schrödinger termed "quantum entanglement."
In a series of ingenious experiments conducted in various locations—from a dank sewage tunnel under the Danube River to the balmy air between a pair of mountain peaks in the Canary Islands—the author and his colleagues have demonstrated the reality of such entanglement using photons, or light quanta, created by laser beams. In principle the lessons learned may be applicable in other areas, including the eventual development of quantum computers.
Zeilinger, the head of the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information in Austria who takes part in ground-breaking experiments in quantum technology, provides a thorough history and explanation of quantum entanglement geared toward the a general readership. Entanglement, a concept which Einstein tried to overturn throughout his life, is the idea that two particles continue to affect each other even after they have physically separated; they are "connected in a much stronger way...than in classical physics." Zeilinger creates a simple narrative in order to lead the reader through actual quantum mechanics experiments. Using data from his own experiments, which include photons that he successfully teleported from one side of the Danube to the other, Zeilinger explains the theoretical, philosophical, and technical problems involved in Einstein's rebuttal of entanglement. Although the first-time author does an admirable job simplifying quantum physics and explaining experiments point-by-point, this is still a challenging subject that requires time and effort on the part of the non-scientist reader. Illus.