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Quantum entanglement: facts and fiction – how wrong was Einstein after all?

  • Bengt Nordén (a1)

Einstein was wrong with his 1927 Solvay Conference claim that quantum mechanics is incomplete and incapable of describing diffraction of single particles. However, the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox of entangled pairs of particles remains lurking with its ‘spooky action at a distance’. In molecules quantum entanglement can be viewed as basis of both chemical bonding and excitonic states. The latter are important in many biophysical contexts and involve coupling between subsystems in which virtual excitations lead to eigenstates of the total Hamiltonian, but not for the separate subsystems. The author questions whether atomic or photonic systems may be probed to prove that particles or photons may stay entangled over large distances and display the immediate communication with each other that so concerned Einstein. A dissociating hydrogen molecule is taken as a model of a zero-spin entangled system whose angular momenta are in principle possible to probe for this purpose. In practice, however, spins randomize as a result of interactions with surrounding fields and matter. Similarly, no experiment seems yet to provide unambiguous evidence of remaining entanglement between single photons at large separations in absence of mutual interaction, or about immediate (superluminal) communication. This forces us to reflect again on what Einstein really had in mind with the paradox, viz. a probabilistic interpretation of a wave function for an ensemble of identically prepared states, rather than as a statement about single particles. Such a prepared state of many particles would lack properties of quantum entanglement that make it so special, including the uncertainty upon which safe quantum communication is assumed to rest. An example is Zewail's experiment showing visible resonance in the dissociation of a coherently vibrating ensemble of NaI molecules apparently violating the uncertainty principle. Einstein was wrong about diffracting single photons where space-like anti-bunching observations have proven recently their non-local character and how observation in one point can remotely affect the outcome in other points. By contrast, long range photon entanglement with immediate, superluminal response is still an elusive, possibly partly misunderstood issue. The author proposes that photons may entangle over large distances only if some interaction exists via fields that cannot propagate faster than the speed of light. An experiment to settle this ‘interaction hypothesis’ is suggested.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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*Author for Correspondence: B. Nordén, Chair Professor of Physical Chemistry, Chalmers University of Technology, SE-41296 Gothenburg, Sweden. E-mail:
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