Bill, we love you, but please stop saying that.





This is actually painful.

Bill Nye is a great guy, and a great science communicator, and has been for so many years.   I love him, you (probably) love him — of course we do.  That’s what makes this hurt!

Fortunately, physicist Chad Orzel (benevolent fellow that he is) views this as a teachable moment, and thanks to he can get the word out to a wide audience.  Excellent.

Physicist Sabine Hossenfelder, on the other hand, is just mad. With good reason.  

Orzel and Hossenfelder each break down the misconceptions point-by-point, and I urge you to click on the links above for the real scoop from people who know what they’re talking about.

Want a really short version?  How about this:

Bill: “…If this turns out to be a real thing…” Entanglement is a real thing, no “if” about it.  But you can’t use it to communicate faster than the speed of light.  It doesn’t work out like that.

Bill: “…it carries, for me, the belief that we’ll be able to go back in time…”  No.  If we could use entanglement to communicate faster than the speed of light, then we could send information back in time, yes…  But that won’t actually happen since we can’t use it to communicate faster than the speed of light.

Bill: “…we’ll be able to harness energy somehow from black holes …”  What? Where is this coming from? What has one thing to do with the other?    I see no connection… unless — wait!  That’s right!  If it’s possible  to send information back in time, then our future selves in their future advanced civilization will send back instructions to us, on how to harness energy from black holes!  Brilliant!  Wait, why haven’t they done that yet?  Oh, right: we can’t use entanglement to communicate faster than the speed of light. Because it doesn’t work that way.  Darn it.

Quoting Chad here:

“There’s no way to determine the outcome of a quantum measurement in advance, so the physicists on either end of an entanglement experiment end up with a set of random numbers that convey no information. Those numbers are perfectly correlated with each other, but they need to compare the two lists in order to learn that, and the comparison can only be done via communication channels at light-speed or below.”

Seriously, check out the links above.

I’m going to lie down and put a wet cloth on my forehead.  This is giving me the fantods.

5 Responses to “Bill, we love you, but please stop saying that.”

  • Lindig Says:

    Laws a mercy, I have heard the “fantods” in just eons. Don’t forget the belt of something cleverly disguised as tea. I just hate it when a good science guy gets it so wrong, and publically, too, sorta like what’s happened to NdGT lately, what with his rough sex and all. (fanning self)

  • Lindig Says:

    *haven’t* dammit it all.

  • Michael Grosberg Says:

    To be fair, Nye didn’t outright *say* that quantum entanglement allows you to send information instantaneously. That was the guy asking the question. Nye seems to have dodged the question and talked about other possible applications of quantum physics (if we ignore the far-fetched time travel thing which I’m not sure has anything to do with entanglement in the first place). He certainly *should* have shot the premise down, though; perhaps he didn’t want to offend the person asking the question and decided to avoid it instead.

    • Rosemary Says:

      Well… no, I really don’t think Nye was dodging the question to be nice. He could have easily, nicely said something like, “Sorry, you’re mistaken — entanglement doesn’t mean we could send information instantaneously, and here’s why… and here are some other cool things that are true about entanglement!” Would have been easy.

      And that time travel thing — that’s a direct result of thinking that we can send information instantaneously. Because sending information instantaneously would be like sending it back in time; and if you can send information back in time, well, heck, it’s just a hop skip and jump to sending people back in time!

      So, it really looks like Nye didn’t disagree with the guy.

      *sigh* At least when Neil deGrasse Tyson gets the science wrong, he does it in a quickie tweet. Obviously off the cuff, not even his area of expertise, and possibly not even written by him… lots of famous people outsource their tweets, or so I hear.