It is an achievement of a team of researchers from Europe and Asia, although we are still a long way from fulfilling the dream.
The news has not gone unnoticed by the scientific community and has generated a lot of controversy, so it is worth explaining it in detail. And we go in order. Quantum entanglement occurs when two subatomic particles interact with each other despite being separate, a process Albert Einstein dubbed “spooky action at a distance.”
According to an article published by Juani Bermejo Vega, an expert in electromagnetism and physics at the University of Granada, “with two atoms in a special state entangled in a laboratory, we can send one to Malaga and the other to Granada, and use them to create a kind of “teleportation” or quantum “catapult”. This is possible thanks to the interlocking state, which creates an exotic spatial connection between Granada and Malaga. It’s a bit like teleportation in the movies because it allows you to send (quantum) information without using (quantum) wires.”
Using this quality of physics, a team of researchers has published a study in which they claim to have managed to quantum entangle unique microscopic animals: tardigrades. These animals are capable of withstanding temperatures of between 200º below zero and 150º, they resist the vacuum of space, extreme pressures and even the firing of bullets.
According to the study, the authors achieved this by placing three frozen tardigrades between two capacitor plates of a superconducting circuit to form a qubit, the quantum equivalent of a bit. This caused the tardigrades to change the frequency of the qubit.
They then placed this circuit near a second superconducting circuit and it was observed that the frequency of both qubits and tardigrades changed at the same time. The only problem is that for now the results have not yet been peer-reviewed and other scientists question them.
One of them is Douglas Natelson, director of the department of physics and astronomy at Rice University, who explains in an article that “it is not about quantum entanglement. No, a tardigrade did not get significantly entangled with a qubit. What the authors did here was put a tardigrade on top of the capacitive parts of one of the two coupled qubits. The tardigrade is mostly (frozen) water, and here it acts as a dielectric, changing the resonant frequency of the qubit it was sitting on.”
But the authors of the study, led by Rainer Dumke, from the Center for Quantum Technologies, do believe they have found something interesting, according to the study.
“Our current research is perhaps the closest realization combining biological matter and quantum matter. While one might expect similar physical results from an inanimate object with a tardigrade-like composition, we emphasize that an entanglement with the whole organism is observed that retains its biological functionality after the experiment.” In fact, only one of the three tardigrades that were part of the experiment managed to survive.
What does this have to do with time travel? Bermejo Vega already hinted at something by mentioning a kind of teleportation. But there is more. According to the professor of physics at the University of Queensland, Timothy Ralph, this peculiar quantum phenomenon applies not only through space, but through time, as explained in a study.
For Ralph’s team, entanglement transcends both physical space and human measurements of time. The results indicate that it is possible to travel from the present to the future without traveling through time between the two, something that is only possible for a particle. This requires that the detection of the future qubit must coincide with its creation in the past. To understand this, they give an example: “If the past detector was active at a quarter to 12:00, then the future detector must wait to be activated at exactly 12:15 to achieve entanglement.”