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Big Bell test wants you

Speed read
  • Uncertainty principle is a radical departure from traditional view of reality.
  • Big Bell test is a worldwide effort to test the theory.
  • New era in computing and communication could result.

Quantum physics is looking for you. Well, you and 30,000 other likeminded, willing citizen scientists.

On November 30, the Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO) is launching the world’s first people-powered randomness experiment — a (very) Big Bell test.

Ring the bell. Join 30,000 of your closest friends from around the world to conduct the world's largest quantum mechanics experiment. Courtesy ICFO.

To participate, all you have to do is to play a game, and your unpredictable input will help scientists to test if Einstein's interpretations of Niels Bohr's quantum theory are correct.

Bohr had asserted that in quantum physics atomic position was without value until measured. Einstein objected to this reading of the theory, as it implied the act of observing reality creates that reality – somewhat of a radical departure from a classic view of reality.

“It certainly does sound very strange to us,” admits Morgan Mitchell, lead scientist of the Big Bell Test. “When you’re not looking at a particle, there’s a radical uncertainty about where it is, and the founders of Quantum Mechanics would say, ‘it’s nowhere; when you’re not looking at it, the position of an object doesn’t exist.’”

It’s an understatement to say this theory is difficult for most people to accept, and Einstein shared that objection.

In 1964, CERN physicist John Bell devised a mathematical proof showing that Einstein's realist position disagrees with quantum mechanics, not only in its interpretation, but also in the predictions it makes about observable phenomena, effectively creating a means to test if Bohr or Einstein was correct.

On November 30, the Big Bell test will replicate that effort worldwide. The test asks for random generation of numbers from 30,000 participants, numbers that are then distributed over a cloud-based server to experiment sites around the world.

To take part, visit the Big Bell test website.

The big test is November 30, but what comes after?

The test could show us something very interesting. It might tell us something about the microscopic world that is quite different from what we experience and what we know how to deal with, Mitchell notes. But more practically, the new knowledge could give us a tool for using quantum effects. 

<strong>Now you see it . . .</strong> The Big Bell test puts Quantum Mechanic's uncertainty principle to test. Join 30,000 citizen scientists from around the world and see if reality doesn't exist when we're not looking. Courtesy ICFO.

“Put crudely, if something doesn’t have a property, then there is no way someone could spy on it,” says Mitchell.

“That’s a very useful thing if you’re trying to send a message. If you want to send information to me and you can encode it in such a way that nobody in between could get that information because of this uncertainty principle, then you have something that is very powerful. In short, we can use this microscopic quantum physics to keep our communications secure.”

So do your part to see if Einstein or Bohr is correct. Go to the Big Bell test website to begin practicing today, and then take part on November 30 in the world's largest quantum physics experiment.

Who knows? By playing a game with 30,000 of your closest friends you could launch humanity into a strange new era. That sounds like fun doesn't it?

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