Worldwide experiment seeks your randomness to test laws of quantum physics

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Anybody can participate in a quantum mechanics experiment by playing an online game featuring the random typing of ones and zeroes.

Anybody can participate in a quantum mechanics experiment by playing an online game featuring the random typing of ones and zeroes. Image courtesy of The Institute of Photonic Sciences

How good are you at being random? Your unpredictability can aid a worldwide experiment Wednesday to test the laws of quantum mechanics.

The “Big Bell Test,” coordinated by The Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO) in Barcelona, is a scientific experiment fueled by a series of human decisions made by volunteers around the globe. To participate in the test, all one has to do is play a series of online games that involve the typing of ones and zeroes as unpredictably as one can muster.

This experiment aims to test Albert Einstein’s idea of “local realism,” which states that any particle — from something as tiny as an atom to something as large as the moon — has a pre-existing value before that value is measured.

Quantum physicists such as Niels Bohr, however, have theorized the opposite: that any particle does not have a distinct value until they are measured, and that if a measured particle was entangled with another particle, the other one would change immediately, no matter how far apart they are.

To experiment on these competing theories, scientists use a Bell test. In these tests, two entangled particles are sent to two separated stations called “Alice” and “Bob.” Each station will perform simultaneous and unpredictable measurements on the particles. Here’s what happens next, as explained by the folks at ICFO:

Quantum mechanics says that the measurement Alice makes will instantly influence Bob’s particle, with the effect that the measurement results agree. In local realism, this influence cannot happen, and Bob and Alice’s measurement results will often disagree. This agreement or disagreement, called correlation, is the signal that allows an experiment to decide about local realism.

The Big Bell Test uses a series of online games played worldwide where players will contribute random sequences of ones and zeroes. These randomly generated sequences will then determine the order of measurement of these entangled particles around the world.

The ICFO is looking for at least 30,000 volunteers to contribute, which would allow enough runs of the experiment to ensure precision of the results and statistical independence of the data.

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