A Feb. 18, 2016 article by Bob Yirka for phys.org suggests there may be a way to see quantum entanglement with the naked eye,
A trio of physicists in Europe has come up with an idea that they believe would allow a person to actually witness entanglement. Valentina Caprara Vivoli, with the University of Geneva, Pavel Sekatski, with the University of Innsbruck and Nicolas Sangouard, with the University of Basel, have together written a paper describing a scenario where a human subject would be able to witness an instance of entanglement—they have uploaded it to the arXiv server for review by others.
Entanglement, is of course, where two quantum particles are intrinsically linked to the extent that they actually share the same existence, even though they can be separated and moved apart. The idea was first proposed nearly a century ago, and it has not only been proven, but researchers routinely cause it to occur, but, to date, not one single person has every actually seen it happen—they only know it happens by conducting a series of experiments. It is not clear if anyone has ever actually tried to see it happen, but in this new effort, the research trio claim to have found a way to make it happen—if only someone else will carry out the experiment on a willing volunteer.
A Feb. 17, 2016 article for the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Technology Review describes this proposed project in detail,
Finding a way for a human eye to detect entangled photons sounds straightforward. After all, the eye is a photon detector, so it ought to be possible for an eye to replace a photo detector in any standard entanglement detecting experiment.
Such an experiment might consist of a source of entangled pairs of photons, each of which is sent to a photo detector via an appropriate experimental setup.
By comparing the arrival of photons at each detector and by repeating the detecting process many times, it is possible to determine statistically whether entanglement is occurring.
It’s easy to imagine that this experiment can be easily repeated by replacing one of the photodetectors with an eye. But that turns out not to be the case.
The main problem is that the eye cannot detect single photons. Instead, each light-detecting rod at the back of the eye must be stimulated by a good handful of photons to trigger a detection. The lowest number of photons that can do the trick is thought to be about seven, but in practice, people usually see photons only when they arrive in the hundreds or thousands.
Even then, the eye is not a particularly efficient photodetector. A good optics lab will have photodetectors that are well over 90 percent efficient. By contrast, at the very lowest light levels, the eye is about 8 percent efficient. That means it misses lots of photons.
That creates a significant problem. If a human eye is ever to “see” entanglement in this way, then physicists will have to entangle not just two photons but at least seven, and ideally many hundreds or thousands of them.
And that simply isn’t possible with today’s technology. At best, physicists are capable of entangling half a dozen photons but even this is a difficult task.
But the researchers have come up with a solution to the problem,
Vivoli and co say they have devised a trick that effectively amplifies a single entangled photon into many photons that the eye can see. Their trick depends on a technique called a displacement operation, in which two quantum objects interfere so that one changes the phase of another.
One way to do this with photons is with a beam splitter. Imagine a beam of coherent photons from a laser that is aimed at a beam splitter. The beam is transmitted through the splitter but a change of phase can cause it to be reflected instead.
Now imagine another beam of coherent photons that interferes with the first. This changes the phase of the first beam so that it is reflected rather than transmitted. In other words, the second beam can switch the reflection on and off.
Crucially, the switching beam needn’t be as intense as the main beam—it only needs to be coherent. Indeed, a single photon can do this trick of switching more intense beam, at least in theory.
That’s the basis of the new approach. The idea is to use a single entangled photon to switch the passage of more powerful beam through a beam splitter. And it is this more powerful beam that the eye detects and which still preserves the quantum nature of the original entanglement.
… this experiment will be hard to do. Ensuring that the optical amplifier works as they claim will be hard, for example.
And even if it does, reliably recording each detection in the eye will be even harder. The test for entanglement is a statistical one that requires many counts from both detectors. That means an individual would have to sit in the experiment registering a yes or no answer for each run, repeated thousands or tens of thousands of times. Volunteers will need to have plenty of time on their hands.
Of course, experiments like this will quickly take the glamor and romance out of the popular perception of entanglement. Indeed, it’s hard to see why anybody would want to be entangled with a photodetector over the time it takes to do this experiment.
There is a suggestion as to how to make this a more attractive proposition for volunteers,
One way to increase this motivation would be to modify the experiment so that it entangles two humans. It’s not hard to imagine a people wanting to take part in such an experiment, perhaps even eagerly.
That will require a modified set up in which both detectors are human eyes, with their high triggering level and their low efficiency. Whether this will be possible with Vivoli and co’s setup isn’t yet clear.
Only then will volunteers be able to answer the question that sits uncomfortably with most physicists. What does it feel like to be entangled with another human?
Given the nature of this experiment, the answer will be “mind-numbingly boring.” But as Vivoli and co point out in their conclusion: “It is safe to say that probing human vision with quantum light is terra incognita. This makes it an attractive challenge on its own.”
You can read the arXiv paper,
What Does It Take to See Entanglement? by Valentina Caprara Vivoli, Pavel Sekatski, Nicolas Sangouard arxiv.org/abs/1602.01907 Submitted Feb. 5, 2016
This is an open access paper and this site encourages comments and peer review.
One final comment, the articles reminded me of a March 1, 2012 posting which posed this question Can we see entangled images? a question for physicists in the headline for a piece about a physicist’s (Geraldo Barbosa) challenge and his arXiv paper. Coincidentally, the source article was by Bob Yirka and was published on phys.org.