Posted on behalf of Katharine Sanderson
For those people disillusioned with the institution of marriage, an experimental philosopher in New York City is offering a different means to share a special bond with your loved one.
Jonathon Keats will entangle couples, in the quantum sense, so that spooky action at a distance can be the bond connecting you to your chosen partner, rather than a certificate from the town hall.
Keats’s homemade entanglement kit sits in a sunny window in the nonprofit AC Institute in New York, which supports experimentation and art. Couples wishing to be entangled walk down a narrow corridor, two-people wide, and stand under the entanglement apparatus. This comprises a nonlinear crystal of beta-barium borate (commonly used to entangle photons), which will catch the sunlight from the window. Then a series of prisms will split that light – hopefully containing the entangled photons – and the light will hit the two people standing below. “They’ll stand for approximately a minute, allowing countless entangled photons to bombard their skin, gently entangling their flesh by the photoelectric effect,” Keats explains in an email.
So far, so whacky, but the emergence of quantum entanglement as an everyday phrase, almost without need to be explained, is interesting. The thought that a member of the public might see the AC Institute’s offer of nuptial entanglement and that there is a good chance that they have an idea, however vaguely, that it has to do with tiny particles being intertwined with one another so that no matter how distant, if one particle is in a particular state so must the other, shows how these complex phenomena can become familiar in today’s society. It can’t be said of, for example the metathesis reaction in chemistry – the subject of the Nobel prize in 2005.
Keats puts this down to the power of metaphor: “Quantum phenomena such as entanglement have proven a rich source of metaphor, not only as means of understanding scientific principles absent of the equations, but also for describing matters having nothing to do with science,” he says, “Think of all the times you hear the Heisenberg uncertainty principle or Schrodinger’s cat mentioned in conversations having nothing to do with physics.”
And as for nuptial entanglement, Keats thinks that this way of showing your commitment to another in a less restricted way than run-of-the-mill weddings provide. “Conventional weddings must meet church or state standards for couples to be married,” he says, “the nuptial entanglement process is totally open, as nondenominational and nonpartisan as the laws of physics.”
So open, that if you wish to be entangled to more than one person, that is also possible, although only two people can be entangled at a time because of the size of the aisle and the experimental set up. “Entanglement with non-humans is also feasible,” Keats adds.
So far Keats has tested the process only on himself and his wife, who he says are now happily entangled, “it certainly feels more significant than some government-stamped document.” If you fancy showing your love through physics, you can be entangled for free, just show up between May 12 and June 18 in the South Alcove of the AC Institute, 547 W. 27th St, 6th Floor, in New York City, and walk down the aisle.
Image: Keat’s apparatus / Jonathon Keats