Monday, December 5, 2011

Scientific Demonstration of Contagion Links

A couple of weeks ago some discussion arose in the comments section of my Hexing on Facebook post surrounding the different kinds of magical links. There are two basic kinds of magical links, generally referred to as Contagion and Similarity. A contagion link is formed between two things that have directly interacted with each other and a similarity link is formed between two things that resemble each other or share a particular property. For some time now my working hypothesis for contagion links is that they are mediated by the known scientific principle of quantum entanglement.

One of the remaining questions surrounding this idea was whether entanglement can be scaled up to macroscopic objects or if the effect is limited to subatomic particles. If the latter were found to be true, that would essentially disprove the entanglement hypothesis, since the main objects magicians use links to affect are macroscopic in nature. However, according to this recent experiment entanglement can be scaled up, so the hypothesis remains intact. Physicists at the University of Oxford have apparently succeeded in entangling two macroscopic-scale diamonds at room temperature.

"I think it's an important step into a new regime of thinking about quantum phenomena," physicist Ian Walmsley of England's University of Oxford said."That is, in this regime of the bigger world, room temperatures, ambient conditions. Although the phenomenon was expected to exist, actually being able to observe it in such a system we think is quite exciting."

Another study recently used quantum entanglement to teleport bits of light from one place to another. And other researchers have succeeded in entangling macroscopic objects before, but they have generally been under special circumstances, prepared in special ways, and cooled to cryogenic temperatures. In the new achievement, the diamonds were large and not prepared in any special way, the researchers said.

"It's big enough you can see it," Walmsley told LiveScience of the diamonds."They're sitting on the table, out in plain view. The laboratory isn't particularly cold or particularly hot, it's just your everyday room."

It's worth noting that since diamonds essentially consist of a single gigantic carbon molecule they're among the easiest objects to test for this phenomenon. But there's no reason to think that the effect is limited to such objects, especially given the long tradition in the magical arts of influencing people and things this way.

The experimental procedure is interesting enough to quote here as well.

Walmsley, along with a team of physicists led by Oxford graduate student Ka Chung Lee, accomplished this feat by entangling the vibration of two diamond crystals. To do so, the researchers set up an apparatus to send a laser pulse at both diamonds simultaneously. Sometimes, the laser light changed color, to a lower frequency, after hitting the diamonds. That told the scientists it had lost a bit of energy.

Because energy must be conserved in closed systems (where there's no input of outside energy), the researchers knew that the "lost" energy had been used in some way. In fact, the energy had been converted into vibrational motion for one of the diamonds (albeit motion that is too small to observe visually). However, the scientists had no way of knowing which diamond was vibrating.

Then, the researchers sent a second pulse of laser light through the now-vibrating system. This time, if the light emerged with a color of higher frequency, it meant it had gained the energy back by absorbing it from the diamond, stopping its vibration. The scientists had set up two separate detectors to measure the laser light — one for each diamond.

If the two diamonds weren't entangled, the researchers would expect each detector to register a changed laser beam about 50 percent of the time. It's similar to tossing a coin, where random chance would lead to heads about half the time and tails the other half the time on average. Instead, because the two diamonds were linked, they found that one detector measured the change every time, and the other detector never fired. The two diamonds, it seemed, were so connected they reacted as a single entity, rather than two individual objects.

In addition to giving us a clearer picture of the contagion aspect of magical links, this discovery has implications for everything from quantum computers to faster-than-light communication. Entanglement has been found to have a limited lifespan, but so far nothing has emerged to suggest that the effect is limited by distance. It remains to be seen if any such limitations emerge from future research.

A lot less research has been done on similarity links, mostly because the physical principles behind them are less obvious. My working hypothesis is still that they are mediated in some fashion by Rupert Sheldrake's proposed morphic resonance principle. Sheldrake's latest book on the subject was published in 2008 and I haven't read it yet, instead basing my hypothesis on his older works. The new one is on my reading list, and I'm hoping that it will suggest some new ways in which similarity can be tested scientifically. Still, it's nice to see this level of progress on contagion, since after all any technology that advances far enough is going to have to include magick and the inner workings of consciousness at some point.

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Anonymous said...

When you think about quantum entanglement, realize that it takes a lot of effort to preserve entanglement. Normally, the superposition collapses (or the other possible states split off into another world, if you prefer the many-worlds model), and you're left with two un-entangled particles / objects. Not saying that quantum entanglement can't be the mechanism for links, but I've done research in quantum computation (actual paid research, not just my own reading), which is focused on entanglement, and it's a lot more complicated than most popular science articles explain.

Anonymous said...

Thinking more about this. I've always seen "Magickal links work by quantum entanglement" as a premature answer. An idea worth considering, but not quite a hypothesis yet, and definitely not something I'd say I believe at this point.

But I wonder. Maybe whatever makes quantum entanglement work also makes magickal links work? That is, the same underlying mechanic? Again, not even really a hypothesis, but something that will probably play in my mind for a while.

Can you explain why you think magickal links work via quantum entanglement? I'm not an expert in the field, so there could easily be results I'm not familiar with.

Ananael Qaa said...

Primarily, I think it's the best working hypothesis because it's the simplest explanation that fits the existing data. You have two objects, A and B. When you manipulate the probabilities surrounding one, you manipulate the probabilities surrounding the other. The simplest way to explain the relationship is that the two objects are governed by the same quantum wavefunction - that is, in some manner they are entangled.

Note that this working hypothesis would have been disproved if it turned out that entanglement couldn't be scaled up, since magicians generally work with macro-scale objects. So far none of the new discoveries about entanglement have contradicted it, though of course I can't necessarily predict the results of future research.