How Einstein Set Back Quantum Mechanics Three Decades

Einstein’s Quantum Riddle

Directed by Jamie Lochhead (2019)

Film Review

This fascinating documentary tries to explain, in ordinary language, the scientific principles behind quantum mechanics the and the apparently bizarre theory of quantum entanglement. The latter was a mathematical theory first put forward by Danish physicist Neils Bohr in 1927.

Quantum mechanics, which is the study of subatomic particles, shows that 1) very small particles behave more like energy than mass and 2) all you can really know about them is the probability they will be found in specific locations or possess specific properties.

Quantum entanglement refers to the ability of paired subatomic particles to affect each other over great distances. Largely because the father of relativity Albert Einstein rejected it, quantum entanglement fell out of favor until the 1960’s. This was when experimental physicists John Bell and John Clauser first developed methodology to test its validity.

Humankind’s understand of quantum mechanics made possible the development of lasers and the transistors and disk drivers essential to running personal computers.

Scientists are using quantum entanglement to develop quantum computers that run on “qubits” and are capable of exponentially faster processing than super computers or even networks of supercomputer.

Google Labs leads this work in the US. However China, which has recently launched a quantum communications satellite, is far and away the world leader in this area.

*A qubit is a two-state quantum entangled mechanical system. An example would be a polarized photon (an elementary particle or quantum of light) that ceases to be entangled if a hacker tries to hack it.

Untold History of the US – The Cold War

Parts 4 and 5 of Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States explore the exaggerated claims of Soviet expansionism that characterized the Truman/Eisenhower administration.

Part 4 begins by contrasting the economic standing of the US and the USSR when the war ended in 1945. The US economy was booming. America controlled 50% of the world’s economic production and most of its gold. The Soviet economy, in contrast, had been shattered. Truman reneged on Roosevelt’s promise to provide the Soviets post war aid to assist in their recovery. During the US occupation of West Germany, he also discontinued German war reparations to the USSR.

The late forties was a period of excruciating poverty for Eastern Europe, with major famine in the Ukraine. With the Soviet economy in a shambles, the claims made by Truman about their intention to conquer the world were ludicrous.

After Henry Wallace, the last holdover from the Roosevelt administration, made a major speech (echoing statements by Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt) opposing nuclear weapons, Truman fired him.

This episode also explores the first implementation of the Truman Doctrine, justifying US intervention in the domestic affairs of other countries. Truman first used it in 1947 to put down a popular uprising against a fascist coup in Greece. In a clear precursor to US intervention in Vietnam, Truman sent in US advisors to train the Greek military in “counterinsurgency tactics,” ie death squads to crush unions and human rights organizations and concentration camps to extinguish civilian support for pro-independence activists.

Part 4: Cold War: 1945-50

Part 5 explores the election of Eisenhower to power in 1952, coinciding with Khrushchev’s rise to power in 1953 and the re-election of Churchill in 1951 (Churchill was replaced by Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee from 1945-51).

Eisenhower, who had opposed using the A-bomb against Japan at Pottsdam, became a fervent nuclear weapons supporter as president. Under pressure from anti-communist hawk John Foster Dulles, he resisted Khrushchev’s and Churchill’s to organize a peace summit to limit the nuclear arms race.

Eisenhower would go on to engage in war crimes in Korean, causing massive civilian deaths by bombing North Korean dams.

In addition to authorizing the CIA overthrow of democratically elected governments in Iran in 1953 and Guatemala in 1954, he paid 80% of French military costs as they endeavored to defeat Vietnam’s pro-independence movement.

In this episode, Stone also explores the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1955 in Java. Members consisted of world leaders determined to remain independent of either US or Soviet influence. In attendance at the first meeting were Ho Chi Minh  (Vietnam), Tito (Yugoslavia), Nehru (India), Nasser (Egypt), Zhou Enlai (China) and Sukarno (Indonesia). The CIA eventually removed each of these men from power, in some cases via assassination.

Part 5: the ’50s: Eisenhower, The Bomb and the Third World