Massive quantum entanglement experiment could help solve a physics mystery

Few ideas are as mind-bending as quantum entanglement: that two objects remain intimately intertwined, even if they’re at opposite ends of the universe.

Key points:

  • Particles are entangled if they are created at precisely the same time and point
  • Entangling massive objects in a stable way has proved tricky for experimental physicists
  • In a paper published today, two vibrating ‘drumheads’, comprising trillions of atoms, were kept in an entangled state for 30 minutes
  • Observing quantum states in massive objects could help reconcile quantum mechanics with Einstein’s theory of general relativity

To date, stable entangled objects created by scientists have been mostly limited to tiny particles. Think atoms or electrons.

But a team of physicists has for the first time kept two vibrating metal membranes, each made of trillions of atoms, entangled for a good half hour, according to a study published today in Nature.

The membranes may seem infinitesimal to us, at around the width of the finest human hair, but they were massive on an atomic scale.

These kinds of experiments could help physicists reconcile two seemingly incompatible concepts in science — general relativity and quantum mechanics — said Matt Woolley, a physicist at the University of New South Wales Canberra and one of the report’s authors.