FictionScienceScience Fiction

Intuition via Quantum Entanglement

Science of Fiction Q&A

My question is about the sort of intuition that seems to be directly related to bonding/relationships, and if we can use quantum entanglement to explain it, at least hypothetically. In many books, we see a specific character showing up at the right time to save the protagonist(s), or it’s the protagonist that shows up to save the day, or to save somebody else. The example that comes to my mind is when Harry Potter was trying to retrieve the Gryffindor sword from that frozen lake and the locket attempted to strangle him. He would’ve died if it hadn’t been for Ron who came at this moment and saved him. So, besides the fact that Rowling wrote it this way because she’s the author of the book, how did Ron know that this is the right time? I mean, if he had delayed his return to his friends for one day more, he wouldn’t have seen the doe patronus and he wouldn’t have been there to save Harry’s life. We all know that Ron is Harry’s best friend, so did their friendship have a role in that? And if so, how? Thank you.

Quantum entanglement refers to a state where the properties of particles cannot be defined independently of one another. This is typically talked about in terms of the spin on a pair of electrons or the polarization of a pair of photons.

The spooky (technical term coined by Einstein) thing about entangled particles is that once entangled, distance does not matter. Their correlated states stay regardless of how far they are separated. This has some very cool implications, but intuition probably isn’t one of them.

The biggest reason for this is that entanglement is a fragile state. If the entangled particles interact with other particles, then their entanglement can easily be lost. Experiments in this field require the entangled particles to be suspended in a vacuum. Brains are not terribly well structured for preserving quantum states, what with all the chemical reactions and electrical impulses going on.

So even if somehow there were entangled particles shared between two brains, they would detangle almost instantly.

If we were going to invoke quantum entanglement, we’d also have to explain how those particles got into useful places in their brains. Entangled particles must be produced locally. While their entanglement effects are maintained at any distance, they must be together to start with.

Also, entangled particles aren’t in any way recognizably different from other particles. An entangled electron looks like any other electron unless you happen to also be observing its partner or partners. That being the case, there’s no reason that a body would put the entangled particles into decision making neurons in a manner that might effect behavior, rather than in the lining of your intestines.

Are you an amateur writer looking for science advice on your project? Email the contact form and include “Science of Ficetion” in the subject line. We can’t promise we’ll be able to answer all questions, but we will at least let you know if we can.

So if you’re going to invoke psychic connections between characters, quantum entanglement probably isn’t the best path. Given your Harry Potter example above, consider using “magic,” or check out our previous article on werewolf telepathy for more sciency inspiration.

Featured Image by moujemouje is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0


Ryan is a professional nerd, teaching engineering in the frozen north. Somewhat less professionally, he is a costumer, author, blacksmith, juggler, gamer, serial enthusiast, and supporter of the Oxford comma. He can be found on twitter and instagram @studentofwhim. If you like what I do here, feel free to leave a tip in my tipjar.

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