Faster than light quantum communication

So, a good friend and excellent science writer has started a feature where he solicits science questions and answers them by talking to NC State’s best scientists.  I thought I’d throw out a good one with “how doe faster-than-light quantum communication work?”  Short answer: it doesn’t.  I was thinking of the very cool, related concept of quantum entanglement.  I think this is perhaps the coolest scientific finding I’m aware of.  Ship explains:

There are ways to prepare two subatomic particles so that they interact and are then separated. For example, under some circumstances a photon (or discrete packet of light energy) can be split into two photons, each of which has half the energy of the original photon.

Some of these paired photons are “entangled,” meaning that they have orthogonal, or perpendicular, polarizations. That means, for example, that if the electric field of one of the photons is vibrating vertically, its twin is vibrating horizontally. The same will hold true regardless of the polarization – if one is polarized to vibrate in a clockwise motion, the other vibrates in a counterclockwise motion, et cetera.

According to a common interpretation of quantum mechanics, both photons are in indeterminate states until you measure them. It is important to make this distinction: it’s not simply that you don’t know what the polarization of each photon is until you measure it; instead, the polarization does not take on a definite value until you measure it. No matter how far apart they are, when the polarization of one photon is determined by a measurement, somehow the other photon instantaneously “knows” the outcome and will always be found to be vibrating in a perpendicular direction.

Now, that’s pretty cool – but it can’t really be used for faster-than-light communication purposes for the simple reason that we cannot control the polarization of the entangled particles. And while it may seem that the two photons are able to communicate with each other in some way, we have no idea how.

That’s not just pretty cool, that’s super cool.  Perhaps even cooler than faster than light neutrinos.

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Watch this

This is just awesome.  Seriously– at least if you are a political junkie.  Which you probably are if you are reading this.  It’s a visualization of the Republican horse race.

No gay marriage = no marriage ?

I had a student several years ago who had a great boyfriend she was planning to be with after graduation, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to get married as long as gays could not get married.  I’m not sure if just a few states were good enough for her, but according to Facebook photos, she gave in and submitted to the heterosexist institution.  Well, now there’s a church in Raleigh (an oh-so-rare liberal Baptist church) that will not marry anyone until gays can get married in NC:

The full congregation of Raleigh’s Pullen Memorial Baptist Church voted Sunday to prohibit the church pastor from legally marrying anyone until she can legally marry same-sex couples under North Carolina law.

The congregants said in a formal statement that current North Carolina law – and the language proposed for a vote next year on an amendment to the state Constitution – discriminates against same-sex couples “by denying them the rights and privileges enjoyed by heterosexual married couples.”…

The vote was unanimous and brought tears to the eyes of some of the 100 or so members who stood to vote in favor of the “statement on marriage ceremonies.”

Among them was the pastor, Nancy Petty, who began a church discussion on same-sex marriages this summer when she told congregants signing legal marriage certificates to wed heterosexual couples while not doing the same for homosexual couples had become a burden on her conscience.

I’d hate to be a young adult unmarried member of this church because you can obviously forget about being married here for some time.  Call me conservative, but this is more than a bit much for me.

Chart of the Day

Greg Sargent wonderfully debunks the all too common conservative talking points on taxes in three handy charts:

It’s one of the most frequently trotted out arguments against raising taxes on the rich: Over time, the share of the tax burden borne by the rich has grown, so it’s not fair to increase it more.

Paul Ryan made that case in his very serious report on inequality the other day. John Boehner and Rand Paul both repeated variations of this case over the weekend.

This is the way conservatives prefer to frame the argument. But this approach ignores two metrics that are arguably more important to the debate: How much the overall income of the wealthy has increased in relation to the increase in the share of the tax burden they’ve borne; and how much the share of their own income they are paying in taxes has shrunk.  [emphasis in original]

Here are three charts, drawn up by the Post digital team, and based on IRS data, which illustrate this very clearly.

I’m just going to post the last chart, click through to the link if you want them all:

Newt the intellectual

The fact that people keep on insiting Newt is so smart is especially frustrating in light of the fact that he is such a complete blowhard.  The latest, via Drum:

Luckily, we have Newt Gingrich to clue us into the next conservative jihad:

The Congressional Budget Office is a reactionary socialist institution which does not believe in economic growth, does not believe in innovation, and does not believe in data that it has not internally generated.

The Congressional Budget Office! That’s the shadowy cabal behind the decline of America! It’s been the budget wonks all along!

As one former Republican CBO director put it, at least he got one of the three bold words about the CBO right.  There’s always the trope that News is full of great ideas, just some crazy ones, too, you have to put up with.  No, Newt is just a blowhard who knows how to effectively use big words.  And what does it say about the state of the Republican primary electorate is that obvious absurdity such as this is seen as an effective way to pander to them?

Fox News: worse than nothing

Fairleigh Dickinson University has some new polling results that are an extraordinary (though, not surprising) indictment of Fox News:

For example, people who watch Fox News, the most popular of the 24-hour cable news networks, are 18-points less likely to know that Egyptians overthrew their government than those who watch no news at all (after controlling for other news sources, partisanship, education and other demographic factors). [emphasis mine]Fox News watchers are also 6-points less likely to know that Syrians have not yet overthrown their government than those who watch no news.

Wow.  And, notice that these are social scientists at work here who have controlled for partisanship and other possible confounds.  It’s really amazingly disturbing that so many Americans rely on a news source that objective, on average, is worse than watching no news at all!  Fox News, the greatest threat to democracy?  Of course, not all news sources are created equal.  What about those horribly biased “liberal” news sources?

By contrast, some media sources have a positive effect on political knowledge. For example, people who report reading a national newspaper like The New York Times or USA Today are 12-points more likely to know that Egyptians have overthrown their government than those who have not looked at any news source. And those who listen to the non-profit NPR radio network are 11-points more likely to know the outcome of the revolt against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.

Again, these results are with partisan controls.  It’s one thing for Fox to have an absurd conservative slant on things, it’s quite another that its viewers are so horrendously uninformed.  Basically, Fox News is a giant reality distortion field for American conservatives.

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