Entanglement

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Tuesday, April 29, 2014


I AM riding a bus right now seated behind the driver for a trip from Cagayan de Oro to Davao via Bukidnon. I have a good view of the road ahead and the fields, houses, and people become a blur as we rush past them. The clock says 10:49 a.m. but according to new developments in quantum physics, I am the arrow of time hurtling through space.

It must be appreciated that physics has a different appreciation of the concept of time. Melded into the counting of minutes is also the movement of particles through space. Time and space are one as seen from the grand vista of that primordial explosion that created both stretching further to the contemporary moment where I now sit on this bus in motion.

There is this new way of looking at the flow of time according to recent developments in the field. The movement of things in general or energy dispersion is ruled by the strange effect of quantum entanglement where objects are always already tied to the conditions of their respective contexts.

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The example used is that of a freshly-brewed coffee cup which at the moment of its inception automatically dissipates its essence as a coffee drink when it adjusts to the room temperature. The hot coffee is entangled with the room and is transformed in the process.

In the social sciences, there are parallel concepts that reflect the same spirit. The appreciation that human relations are entangled in a reality far different from their mere aggregates is a basic tenet for instance in Sociology. The whole is not the sum of its parts as one sage once said because the social “entanglements” create an altogether different reality.

Marxism is also enriched by the same sensitivity to a dynamic interconnectedness between things through the notion of dialectics. Borrowed from Hegel but applied to a critical analysis of social relations, dialectics reveal the movement of things and the interrelatedness of these movements to one another.

In these two instances, the same spirit of seeing things for their interconnectedness is emphasized. The view to also see things in flux or in movement is also given weight.

For physics, this approach has allowed them to reveal the movement of time and space in terms of entanglements. For the social sciences, society as sui generis becomes a valid object of study.

One implication of these common views is that there are no pure states. Everything is entangled and in motion to reflect the conditions of their contexts. That is the case for the coffee dissipating its essence at the moment of its inception.

If that is so, who is this man riding on a bus? The time now is 4:07 pm. He is not anymore the same man if we are to pursue the logic of entanglement and dialectics.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on April 29, 2014.

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