IEET > Vision > Galactic > Directors > Giulio Prisco > HealthLongevity > Philosophy > Psychology > Innovation > Artificial Intelligence > Nanotechnology
Can Quantum Weirdness Be Used to Send Instant Messages Across Space and Time?
Giulio Prisco   Sep 7, 2015   Turing Church  

Quantum physicists in the Netherlands, Spain, and the UK have confirmed in the lab that the weird instant correlations between remote “entangled” particles are real. The question that comes to mind is, can quantum weirdness be used to send instant message across space-time, faster than light?

The new experimental conformation of instant entanglement – not the first, but the strongest to date – is published on arXiv with the title “Experimental loophole-free violation of a Bell inequality using entangled electron spins separated by 1.3 km.”  See also my summary and Zeeya Merali’s summaries published at Foundational Questions Institute (FQXi) website and Nature News.

The researchers measured the spins of hundred of entangled particles in two University of Delft labs, located 1.3 km apart, and confirmed that the entangled correlations are still observed when there is not enough time for light to travel from the first lab to the second, which means that entanglement isn’t limited by the speed of light.

If the correlations between entangled particles aren’t limited by the speed of light, is it possible to send instant messages faster than light (FTL), or across time, or do even weirder forms of quantum magic?

The cover image is taken from the scientific documentary “What the Bleep Do We Know!?” – a controversial “quantum mysticism” cult film that intriguingly hints at the possibility that quantum weirdness might eventually provide a solid scientific framework for spiritual beliefs.

To be entirely honest, I want quantum physics to be weird. In “The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul,” Rudy Rucker astutely observes that many people find quantum mysticism appealing because it seems to offer a scientific escape from death. “If the world is fundamentally random, then surely I’m not a robotic machine, and if I’m not a machine, then perhaps I have an immortal soul, so death isn’t so frightening.”

I plead guilty as charged – and why not? I realize that the universe doesn’t have to agree with my hopeful thinking… but perhaps it does. Time will tell.

Faster than light communications based on entanglement: No Can Do

The awesome scientific history book “How the Hippies Saved Physics,” by David Kaiser, tells the fascinating story of the Fundamental Fysiks Group – quantum physics and the psychedelic youth culture of the seventies rolled together – and shows some of the colorful scientists who dedicated years to developing schemes for FTL messaging via entanglement.

Nick Herbert and Jack Sarfatti [liked] to talk about the quantum physics and the possibilities of time travel,” wrote R.U. Sirius in his book review. “It is clear that hip young scientists in the 1970s broke through an extant taboo against exploring theoretical physics. And even if some may find their theories flakey in the extreme, we can thank them for busting open the exploration of big physics ideas.”

“And who knows. Maybe Jack Sarfatti will yet build that time machine.”

Nick Herbert’s (highly recommended) book Quantum Reality, acclaimed as one of the best popular books on quantum physics, is still very much worth reading 30 years after its first publication in 1985. Contrary to some books by other members of the Fundamental Fysiks Group, such as the very successful The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra, Herbert’s book doesn’t emphasize quantum mysticism but sticks to solid – though open-minded and imaginative – physics, including a very clear explanation of Bell’s theorem. Kaiser tells the story of Herbert’s imaginative and apparently solid – but ultimately unsuccessful – schemes with names like QUICK and FLASH to use entanglement for FTL communications.

John G. Cramer, a professor of physics at the University of Washington in Seattle, who also authored the excellent science fiction novels Twistor and Einstein’s Bridge, proposed schemes for spacetime communication via quantum entanglement, often discussed in his Alternate View columns on Analog Science Fiction & Fact Magazine.

Unfortunately, according to our current understanding of quantum physics, entanglement can’t be used to send FTL instant messages. Measuring the spin of one of a pair of entangled particles always gives a random result – even if the results of the two measurements are correlated – and any attempt to preset the spin of a particle would break the entanglement. A good analogy is two decks of “magic” cards that are always in the same order, but the magic only works if both decks are well shuffled first, and cheating breaks the magic.

In the image above I illustrate another good analogy, due to physicist David Bohm. Two screens in different places seem to show two fishes that exhibit weird, instantly correlated behaviors – when one turns left the other also turns left – but the screens are really showing two images of the same fish. Of course, an observer at one screen can’t send an instant message to an observer at the other screen. Nothing – zooming in, increasing the luminosity, switching the screen off – will work short of persuading the real fish to turn in one direction, which the observer can’t do.

It’s interesting that, despite the simple no-can-do analogies above, the FTL schemes devised by Herbert and Cramer seem solid and almost correct. Spotting the design flaws requires subtle reasoning, giving the impression that the universe tries to protect itself from FTL signaling.

Recently, Cramer and Herbert wrote a joint paper titled “An Inquiry into the Possibility of Nonlocal Quantum Communication” with a negative conclusion. A few days ago, Herbert criticized yet another new scheme for FTL messaging via entanglement, and concluded:

“Despite the FTL nature of the Theory that represents the World, despite the FTL nature of the Reality which underlies the World, the World Herself displays not a speck of evidence for any FTL connections.

In summary, according to our best (current) understanding of the quantum world, entanglement can’t be used to send instant FTL messages.

Non-linear quantum physics to the rescue?

FTL fans and adepts of quantum mysticism can still hope that future non-linear versions of quantum physics might allow for FTL communications, and who knows what else.

“This idea was studied in the early 1990s as a consequence of a particular nonlinear variant of quantum mechanics due to [Steven] Weinberg,” explained Barak Shoshany, a graduate student at Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. “Later it was argued that any nonlinear formulation of quantum mechanics (not only in Weinberg’s framework) necessarily leads to the possibility of superluminal communication.”

Shoshany gives a list of references, all easy to find online in full text. “I show that Weinberg’s nonlinear quantum mechanics leads either to communication via Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen correlations, or to communications between branches of the wave function,” reads the abstract of one of the references, by Joseph Polchinski. In other words, either FTL instant messages to the stars, or messages to parallel universes.

“Any attempt to generalize quantum mechanics by allowing small nonlinearities in the evolution of state vectors risks the introduction of instantaneous communication between separated observers,” noted Weinberg in his “Lectures on Quantum Mechanics.”

Time will tell, and experiment will decide. In the meantime, I certainly want to read more about these fascinating topics.

Image from “What the Bleep Do We Know!?” and a PPT presentation by the author.

Giulio Prisco is a writer, technology expert, futurist and transhumanist. A former manager in European science and technology centers, he writes and speaks on a wide range of topics, including science, information technology, emerging technologies, virtual worlds, space exploration and future studies. He serves as President of the Italian Transhumanist Association.


See for updates on this issue of the use of entanglement for stand-alone command-control-communication as well as super-computing around effective closed-time-like curves e.g. Seth Lloyd’s P-CTC. Weinberg’s conclusion is now obsolete for a variety of reasons. Orthodox quantum theory is a limiting case of post-quantum theory just as special relativity is a limiting case of general relativity and for the very same reason - the violation of Einstein’s generalized action-reaction principle (aka background independence). Relevant work on this is found in papers by Antony Valentini, Kent Peacock, and myself. Relevant evidence is in the brain presponse experiments Ben Libet noted by Roger Penrose in The Emperor’s New Mind replicated by Dean Radin, Dick Bierman and Daryl Bem. e.g. see and

On R. I. Sutherland’s Retro-Causal Action-Reaction Lagrangian Quasi-Gauge Model of Relativistically Invariant Many-Particle Entangled Bohm Pilot Wave Theory in 4D Space-Time without Many-Dimensional Configuration Space.

Jack Sarfatti

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Internet Science Education Project

San Francisco, CA



The no-signaling arguments for orthodox quantum theory assume a violation of the general action-reaction principle that Einstein used to get from special relativity to general relativity. Special relativity had action of spacetime geometry on the geodesic motion of particles without any direct reaction of those particles back on the spacetime geometry. Similarly, Bohm and Hiley pointed out that the no-signaling property of orthodox quantum theory’s entanglement depended on the Schrodinger quantum information pilot field having “no sources.” The pilot field changed the classical world lines of particles without any direct reaction of those particles back on their quantum information pilot field. Such direct back-reaction would result in stand-alone entanglement signals. These entanglement signals seem to violate special relativity because they appear to be spacelike faster-than-the speed of light. However, R. I. Sutherland, building on the 1950’s work of O. Costa de Beauregard, I.J. Good and Fred Hoyle leading back to Wheeler and Feynman (1940 – 47) has shown that the violation of Bell’s inequality is best understood as local retrocausality that is completely relativistically invariant. John Bell knew about this, but rejected it because it seemed to him to contradict free will. Yakir Aharonov and his students as well as John Cramer and Hoyle and Narlikar have developed these ideas further since the 1950s up to the present time. Of particular experimental interest is Aephraim Steinberg’s work on photon Bohmian trajectories in space using Aharonov’s post-selected “destiny” and pre-selected “history” “weak measurement” technique. The bottom line here is that real Bohmian particle trajectories can be observed – the variables are no longer “hidden” via Aharonov’s weak measurements. This is the most parsimonious understanding of the facts minimizing the algorithmic complexity in the space of possible interpretations of orthodox quantum theory.

Rod Sutherland has shown that the lack of direct back reaction from particle to wave enforcing the no-signaling property of entanglement is precisely the old de Broglie guidance constraint that Antony Valentini characterizes as “sub-quantal equilibrium” with “signal locality” as a limiting case of a more general post-quantum theory. Hagen Kleinert has also shown that this limiting case is a WKB approximation. Violation of the de Broglie guidance constraint leads to entanglement signaling that may be equivalent to the super-computation around closed timelike curves discussed by Seth Lloyd and others. These results also apply to the Dirac fermion and the boson gauge theories in Bohmian form.

The application of post-quantum theory’s violation of the de-Broglie guidance constraint corresponding to Antony Valentini’s “sub-quantum non-equilibrium” “signal nonlocality” to naturally conscious AI machines will also be considered.

The connection to Lenny Susskind’s ER = EPR conjecture solution to the black hole firewall enigma. I first suggested ER (wormhole) = EPR (entanglement) in the 1975 book “Space-Time and Beyond” (E.P. Dutton). Orthodox quantum theory with no entanglement signaling corresponds to the wormholes pinching off before a message can get through from one mouth to the other. Post-quantum theory would then correspond to Kip Thorne’s “traversable wormhole” (1987) whose throat is kept open by amplified repulsive anti-gravity dark energy.

Yes, I was going refer Guilio Prisco to Dr. Sarfatti’s website, but it’s nice the good doctor showed up out of nowhere (teleportation?) to elucidate his insights with us. The nice thing about Dr. Sarfatti’s website is that it also links directly to breaking stories in physics, astronomy, and computer engineering developments.

the URL is-


@spud100, of course I know Jack’s site.

@Jack - thanks for the explanations and the links.

I have been unable to find the full text of “On R. I. Sutherland’s Retro-Causal Action-Reaction Lagrangian Quasi-Gauge Model of Relativistically Invariant Many-Particle Entangled Bohm Pilot Wave Theory in 4D Space-Time without Many-Dimensional Configuration Space.”

After a quick glance at the papers I think (please correct em if I am wrong) you are saying that entanglement and currently understood quantum physics don’t allow FTL communications, but some kind of post-quantum physics could.

In “Lectures on Quantum Mechanics” Weinberg also says “My own conclusion (not universally shared) is that today there is no interpretation of quantum mechanics that does not have serious flaws, and that we ought to take seriously the possibility of finding some more satisfactory other theory, to which quantum mechanics is merely a good approximation.”

Valentini’s paper is very intriguing - perhaps future scientists will find magic non-quantum particles somewhere in the universe.

What do you think after many decades of searching for quantum magic? Is current quantum theory the final word (you seem to think it isn’t)? What are the most promising paths to a post-quantum theory? Will we ever be able to extract information from past times via quantum weirdness and resurrect the dead?

I am working on that paper and I will post it on when it is finished. I am in communication with Rod Sutherland.

“you are saying that entanglement and currently understood quantum physics don’t allow FTL communications, but some kind of post-quantum physics could.”


“What do you think after many decades of searching for quantum magic? Is current quantum theory the final word (you seem to think it isn’t)? “

Right you are.

“What are the most promising paths to a post-quantum theory?”

My extension of Rod Sutherland’s recent advances.

“Will we ever be able to extract information from past times via quantum weirdness and resurrect the dead?”

Good question. We will be able to upload our conscious experiences to the Cloud and then download them to android bodies IF my theory of consciousness as the back-reaction of matter on its pilot waves is correct.

Thanks @Jack. Could you point me to a published outline of “Rod Sutherland’s recent advances” and “your extension”? I was only able to find scattered references, and only the abstract (that you posted above) for your last paper.

How do yours and Sutherland’s ideas relate to Cramer transactional interpretation?

However, this version differs in a critical way from his original. Rod may restore the original.
I just posted an extensive commentary on Sutherland’s paper here
it is not finished still under construction
Our theories are essentially Cramer’s TI + Bohm’s be-ables, i.e. particle paths and classical gauge theory configurations. Sutherland is only concerned with orthodox quantum theory limit which precludes entanglement signaling and in which consciousness is not explained. My main concern is to break out of the orthodox quantum theory that is like being trapped inside of Plato’s Cave (see Republic Book 7).

YOUR COMMENT Login or Register to post a comment.

Next entry: The Ethics of Chemical Brain Preservation as a Life Saving Medical Procedure

Previous entry: Transhumanism’s Big Political Blind Spot