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Environmental Entanglement
Doug Jackson
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In the early part of the twentieth century, discoveries at the subatomic scale began to suggest that there might be limits to the degree to which humanity could fundamentally know the nature of the world—limits that exceeded the ability of science and technology to ever resolve. Both Werner Heisenberg’s principle of uncertainty and Niels Bohr’s concept of complementarity, articulated in 1927, claimed that the measurement of subatomic phenomena could only ever provide approximations of the underlying physical reality, and also that the results of these measurements were heavily distorted by the act of measurement itself. These ideas, while essential to quantum physics, nevertheless represented a tragic indictment of both the authority of science to objectively reveal the full nature of the world and the assumption of human detachment from the environment upon which such supposed objectivity depends. The realization that aspects of reality, at least at very small scales, were fundamentally inaccessible to objective observation and measurement was such an affront to members of the scientific community that even Albert Einstein—whose theories had also articulated the profound degree to which an observer’s state affected the perception of physical phenomena—publicly debated Bohr regarding the completeness of the theory of quantum mechanics. For Einstein, the key to his attempt to disprove the theory lay in its concept of entanglement—a condition in which pairs of particles are created whose quantum states cannot be described independently of one another, regardless of their physical and temporal separation.Footnote1 Entanglement therefore describes an uncanny form of causality across time and space—one that Einstein dismissed as an unscientific belief in impossible “spooky actions at a distance.”Footnote2

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