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06-15-2024

"Spooky action at a distance" confirmed to persist between top quarks

Physicists have delved deeper into the enigmatic world of quantum entanglement and top quarks, bringing a new level of understanding to a phenomenon that even Albert Einstein found perplexing.

This incredible feat has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of the quantum realm and its far-reaching implications.

Entanglement persists between unstable top quarks

The experiment, conducted by a team of researchers led by University of Rochester physics professor Regina Demina at the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN), has yielded a significant result.

For the first time, they observed entanglement persisting between unstable top quarks and their antimatter partners at distances greater than what can be covered by information transferred at the speed of light.

“Confirming the quantum entanglement between the heaviest fundamental particles, the top quarks, has opened up a new avenue to explore the quantum nature of our world at energies far beyond what is accessible,” the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) Collaboration at CERN reported.

Heavyweights of the particle world

Top quarks reign supreme as the heaviest known fundamental particles in the universe. They belong to the quark family, which consists of six “flavors”: up, down, charm, strange, top, and bottom.

Among these, the top quark stands out due to its exceptional mass, which is comparable to that of a gold atom.

Discovery of top quarks

Scientists first predicted the existence of top quarks in the 1970s, but it took nearly two decades for experimental confirmation.

In 1995, researchers at the Fermilab Tevatron collider in Illinois, USA, finally observed top quarks in high-energy particle collisions.

This discovery completed the three generations of quarks predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics.

Top quarks: Ephemeral existence

These particles have an extremely short lifetime, decaying almost immediately after their creation.

They exist for only about 5 × 10^-25 seconds before transforming into other particles, such as bottom quarks or W bosons.

This fleeting existence makes studying top quarks a challenging endeavor, requiring highly sophisticated particle accelerators and detectors.

Top quarks and the Higgs boson

Due to their immense mass, top quarks can only be produced in high-energy particle collisions. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN is one of the few facilities capable of generating the necessary energies to create top quarks.

By colliding protons at nearly the speed of light, the LHC provides scientists with a window into the world of these elusive particles.

Top quarks play a crucial role in the study of the Higgs boson, another fundamental particle discovered at the LHC in 2012.

The Higgs boson is responsible for giving mass to other particles, and its interactions with top quarks are of particular interest to physicists.

By studying these interactions, researchers can gain deeper insights into the nature of mass and the inner workings of the universe.

Gateway to new physics

Beyond their role in the Standard Model, top quarks serve as a potential gateway to new physics. Many theories that go beyond the Standard Model, such as supersymmetry, predict the existence of new particles that could be produced in association with top quarks.

Quantum kingdom: Tale of King Top and Anti-Top

To explain the complex concept of entanglement, Demina used a clever analogy in a video for CMS social media channels. She described an indecisive king of a distant land, whom she called “King Top.”

As the king flip-flops on his decisions about preparing for an invasion, nobody knows what his next move will be — except for the leader of one village, known as “Anti-Top.”

“They know each other’s state of mind at any moment in time,” Demina explained.

Implications for quantum information science

The phenomenon of entanglement has become the cornerstone of quantum information science, a rapidly growing field with vast implications in areas such as cryptography and quantum computing.

While top quarks themselves are unlikely to be used in building quantum computers due to their immense mass and the high energies required to produce them, studies like Demina’s can provide valuable insights into the nature and duration of entanglement.

Theorists believe that the universe was in an entangled state after its initial fast expansion stage. The new result observed by Demina and her team could help scientists understand what led to the loss of the quantum connection in our world.

By studying how long entanglement persists, whether it is passed on to the particles’ decay products, and what ultimately breaks the entanglement, researchers can gain a deeper understanding of the quantum nature of our universe.

Future of quantum entanglement and top quarks

In summary, this important experiment conducted by Regina Demina and her team at CERN has opened up new avenues for exploring the fascinating world of quantum entanglement.

By observing the persistence of entanglement between unstable top quarks at incredible distances, they have taken a significant step toward unraveling the mysteries of the quantum realm.

Their findings shed light on the nature and duration of entanglement while paving the way for future research that could revolutionize our understanding of the universe’s quantum past and its profound impact on fields like quantum information science.

As physicists continue to push the boundaries of what we know about the quantum world, discoveries like these bring us closer to unlocking the secrets of the spooky connection that lies at the heart of our reality.

Collaborative effort

Demina’s research group, consisting of herself, graduate student Alan Herrera, and postdoctoral fellow Otto Hindrichs, conducted their experiment at CERN, the world’s largest particle physics laboratory.

The production of top quarks requires the immense energies accessible at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), where high-energy particles are sent spinning around a 17-mile underground track at nearly the speed of light.

The full study was published in the CMS Physics Analysis Survey.

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