Echoing Bill Nye’s favorite phrase, Tom from Western Australia asks after the practical implications of quantum mechanics. It’s a tough sell, explains Nye, but computing power is on the short list. The imaginable benefits of quantum entanglement, called “spooky action at a distance” by the skeptical Albert Einstein, lie further afield. Nye thinks with our knowledge of subatomic particles it is theoretically possible to harness the energy created by black holes and perhaps even travel backwards in time. One thing is certain: continued funding for the sciences is essential to uncover the practical qualities of nature.
Tom: Hi, Bill. Tom, from Western Australia. If quantum entanglement or quantum spookiness can allow us to transmit information instantaneously, that is faster than the speed of light, how do you think this could, dare I say it, change the world?
Bill Nye: Tom, I love you man. Thanks for the tip of the hat there, the turn of phrase. Will quantum entanglement changed the world? If this turns out to be a real thing, well, or if we can take advantage of it, it seems to me the first thing that will change is computing. We'll be able to make computers that work extraordinarily fast. But it carries with it, for me, this belief that we'll be able to go back in time; that we'll be able to harness energy somehow from black holes and other astrophysical phenomenon that we observe in the cosmos but not so readily here on earth. We'll see. Tom, in Western Australia, maybe you'll be the physicist that figures quantum entanglement out at its next level and create practical applications. But for now, I'm not counting on it to change the world. However, I am counting on all of us to continue to explore; to continue to building particle accelerators; to continue to observe the cosmos; to continue to fund basic research so we will make discoveries about quantum mechanics and the nature of nature and subatomic particles. You were alive when the Higgs boson was proven to exist. You were alive when Italian researchers thought they had found a phenomenon that was faster than light, but it wasn't — but it has led to further explorations. And so now people wonder about the next thing in particle physics below the Higgs boson. And if that is discovered, who knows where it will lead? But it is only through basic research that we will learn about the extraordinarily small and the extraordinarily huge. Fabulous question, Tom. Carry on! Lead the world!