Detangling Quantum Entanglement: Can You Really Communicate at the Speed of Light?

Although people might like to believe that aliens and extraterrestrials are only relegated to the pages of science fiction books or the screens in our movie theaters, for centuries there have been people who firmly believe otherwise. From astronauts who have walked on our moon to, more recently, the founder and CEO of SpaceX, Elon Musk, there have always been those on “the fringe” who not only believed in ET life, but felt like they had evidence to prove it.

The famous crash in Roswell, New Mexico thought to be one of the events that did such that, offering the proof of a ship and a body, although many still argue its validity.

In one of Musk’s recent interviews, he not only shared that he believes extraterrestrial super aliens a feasible possibility, he went on to say that, if they exist, they existed, but that “they’re probably already observing us… and we’re just not smart enough to realize it.”

How’s that for a kick to your human ego?

A long time ago, my middle school Language Arts teacher asked my class to read Ender’s Game. Not my typical cup of tea, considering Jane Austen was, and still is, the be-all-end-all author in my book, I found myself fascinated by the world Orson Scott Card created.

But, being the daughter of an engineer who constantly questioned and destroyed every possibility of Star Wars being possible, I found myself skeptic — and I went back to Emma and her matchmaking (which, if you’re an Orson Scott Card or sci-fi fan probably means very little to you).

And then I moved to Boulder and found myself immersed in a company that not only wholeheartedly believes in intelligent life on other planets, many of the people they work with believe that they are contacting people here on this planet, perhaps even right here among us.

Yes, I live in New Mexico. No, I’ve never felt like I have seen something inexplicable streak across the night sky.

However, I was interested to see what the possibility of all of this really could be. Now, I’m far from being an expert but I have some incredibly smart people in my life that let me pick their brains, especially about communication with extraterrestrials: is it actually possible to talk with life on other planets in real time? Or, at least, without having to wait hundreds of years for a text message to finally arrive in your inbox?

During this picking I was pointed to fiction books that have some plausible ideas about communication with other planets, the idea of quantum entanglement, and, less helpful, Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory.

I found myself tangled in quantum entanglement, which apparently is no surprise to anyone familiar with the concept. In a nutshell, quantum entanglement is a phenomenon that joins particles in their quantum state so that they are no longer separate — everything becomes one whole no matter how far apart they are. Albert Einstein is one of the scientists to write about this phenomenon, something non-scientist folk can understand as “spooky action at a distance”.

To break this down in an easier to understand way, quantum entanglement posits that if a particle were spun on one side of the world and it was entangled with another, the spinning of that first particle would cause the second to spin as well and in the same direction.

Yep, spooky.

Some physicists believe that quantum entanglement is the answer to extraterrestrial communication, although it hasn’t been proven yet that information can actually be carried and passed through this phenomenon. There is an interesting book that was written about quantum entanglement being a possible scientific explanation for ESP and psychic readings, although, of course, everything in this realm of science is always up for debate.

(Haven’t Sheldon and Leonard taught you anything?)

So the big question is if you can find a way to send information with entangled particles as doing so would allow for speed of light (or faster) communication that could put us in cahoots with super smart aliens on Planet X (or was it Y?)

While the decision is still out with the jury, many physicists say that you can’t simply because trying to alter the state of an entangled particle breaks the entanglement. And then, there are the ones that argue there’s a way around it — they just haven’t figured it out exactly yet.

But, where there’s a will, there’s usually a way.

And if quantum entanglement isn’t the answer, is there somewhere else to look?

Perhaps interstellar beacons can be used to create some sort of informative light show, like an EDM festival crossed with Dan Rather.

Others believe that learning to understand dolphins may hold the key to unlocking extraterrestrial communication. In fact, researchers in Hawaii are currently practicing communicating with animals, like dolphins, in order to prepare for contact. Researchers involved with this project say that when they’re asked if they believe “we’re alone”, they answer, “No, we’re not alone. There are many animals communicating right here that we don’t understand.”

Point taken.

And this is where my dizzying exploration into the detangling of quantum entanglement came to a screeching halt. Can you learn to communicate at the speed of light? My guess, contrary to Elon Musk’s belief in our lack of intelligence, is that of course we can — it’s just a matter of time. But, until an alien comes up to me on the street to try to ask for directions, I’m going to focus on honing my communication skills for the intelligent beings on this planet.

Flipper, will you be my friend?