Quilt 4: Quantum Entanglement

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Artist Notes: Quantum Entanglement

This looks random. There is, however, a set of rules and a devious order at work. For a pair of, shall we say, photons in this yellow Sun, to be entangled, they will be the same color (red, blue or green), in matching columns, (1, 2, or 3, left to right), and heading the same direction (point to the left, point to the right). If they meet these conditions, they will be replicated in the center column. A small example is drawn below, where the red and blue triangles in the center represent a pair of entangled photons, one from each middle column on the sides.

 You will not find any pairs of triangles meeting this trio of criteria other than the 12 triangles replicated in the center of the quilt. The center star is an homage to the many Jewish physicists who have contributed to our knowledge of the universe. The top and bottom devices are a caution about radioactivity; our sun does produce some gamma radiation, but that is occurring closer to the core of the sun. Happily, our sun does release all kinds of radiation; some in the visible spectrum which we can see, and some in the ultraviolet, which our butterflies can see.  Every element we have has been produced from the activities of stars, from lowly but abundant hydrogen formed during the Big Bang, to glorious gold, and heavier atoms still, from the collisions of neutron stars.

What is quantum entanglement? When a pair of particles experiences quantum entanglement, you can’t describe the quantum state of one of them independently from the other; even when the two particles are a long distance away from each other, they seem to coordinate. Well, what is a quantum state? It’s a probability distribution across all the possible outcomes of each measurement possible in a system. That is, how likely is a particle to have a particular characteristic. Let’s say our little system has three characteristics (things you can measure): color (red, green or blue), column, and pointing direction. Well, we just outlined the possible quantum states, and lo and behold, they are the same as the states described as the rules of the quilt.

From Wikipedia: “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.” (Whenever physicists invoke ‘quantum’ that means they are usually discussing actions on the very microscopic scale.)

 “Measurements of physical properties such as position, momentum, spin, and polarization [of] entangled particles can [] 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.”


In the quilt, if a center triangle is red, pointing left, and in row 2, it will be so in all three positions, left, right and center. All of the other “nonentangled photons” don’t give us any information about any other “photon” (quilt triangle).

 Well, why do we care? Is this one of those times when the unseen is uninteresting? Quantum entanglement philosophically requires us to embrace both connection at a distance and uncertainty; that’s good, because we poor beings are stuck with uncertainty as much as any particle is, and we seek connection with each other, even (especially) at a distance. And there are practical applications supposedly on the way: quantum computing is just at its beginnings, prophesied to be in wide use by the 2030s, although these machines are as wildly expensive as supercomputers were in the dark ages of the 1960s. This is one of the more interesting articles on quantum entanglement.


There is an Easter Egg sewn inside this quilt. Behind a yellow triangle is a piece of fabric depicting Schrödinger’s cat, which is both alive and dead at the same time (at least until you open the box). That is, a particle remains in dual states until it is observed by the external world.