Quantum entanglement is a physical phenomenon that occurs when a pair or group of particles is generated, interact, or share spatial proximity in a way such that the quantum state of each particle of the pair or group cannot be described independently of the state of the others, including when the particles are separated by a large distance. The topic of quantum entanglement is at the heart of the disparity between classical and quantum physics: entanglement is a primary feature of quantum mechanics lacking in classical mechanics.
Measurements of physical properties such as position, momentum, spin, and polarization performed on entangled particles can, in some cases, be found to be perfectly correlated. For example, if a pair of entangled particles is generated such that their total spin is known to be zero, and one particle is found to have clockwise spin on a first axis, then the spin of the other particle, measured on the same axis, is found to be counterclockwise. However, this behavior gives rise to seemingly paradoxical effects: any measurement of a particle’s properties results in an irreversible wave function collapse of that particle and changes the original quantum state. With entangled particles, such measurements affect the entangled system as a whole.
The Einstein–Podolsky–Rosen paradox (EPR paradox) is a thought experiment proposed by physicists Albert Einstein, Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen (EPR), with which they argued that the description of physical reality provided by quantum mechanics was incomplete. In a 1935 paper titled “Can Quantum-Mechanical Description of Physical Reality be Considered Complete?”, they argued for the existence of “elements of reality” that were not part of quantum theory, and speculated that it should be possible to construct a theory containing them. Resolutions of the paradox have important implications for the interpretation of quantum mechanics.
The thought experiment involves a pair of particles prepared in an entangled state (note that this terminology was invented only later). Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen pointed out that, in this state, if the position of the first particle were measured, the result of measuring the position of the second particle could be predicted. If, instead, the momentum of the first particle were measured, then the result of measuring the momentum of the second particle could be predicted. They argued that no action taken on the first particle could instantaneously affect the other, since this would involve information being transmitted faster than light, which is forbidden by the theory of relativity. They invoked a principle, later known as the “EPR criterion of reality”, positing that, “If, without in any way disturbing a system, we can predict with certainty (i.e., with probability equal to unity) the value of a physical quantity, then there exists an element of reality corresponding to that quantity”. From this, they inferred that the second particle must have a definite value of position and of momentum prior to either being measured. This contradicted the view associated with Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, according to which a quantum particle does not have a definite value of a property like momentum until the measurement takes place.