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Quantum computers, quantum cryptography and quantum (insert name here) are often in the news these days. Articles about them inevitably refer to entanglement, a property of quantum physics that makes all these magical devices possible.

Einstein called entanglement "spooky action at a distance," a name that has stuck and become increasingly popular. Beyond just building better quantum computers, understanding and harnessing entanglement is also useful in other ways.

For example, it can be used to make more accurate measurements of gravitational waves, and to better understand the properties of exotic materials. It also subtly shows up in other places: I have been studying how atoms bumping into each other become entangled, to understand how this affects the accuracy of atomic clocks.

But what is entanglement? Is there some way to understand this "spooky" phenomenon? I will try to explain it by bringing together two notions from physics: conservation laws and superpositions.

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Category: Science