Einstein's Nightmare

2014, Science  -  60 min Leave a Comment
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The true nature of the smallest elements that make up our universe - the atoms, photons and electrons - has long mystified and tormented our greatest scientists. Are they ruled by order or by mere chance? The answer could reshape our perception of reality. This field of science is known as quantum mechanics, and it was major point of debate between acclaimed scientists Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr. In the probing documentary Einstein's Nightmare, theoretical physicist and author Professor Jim Al-Khalili attempts to settle their dispute once and for all.

At the heart of the debate is the question as to whether reality as we know it exists when we're not observing it. Bohr believed that the smallest matter consists only of probabilities and contradictions, and its true reality cannot be fully known or measured. As a devotee of definitive statistical science, Einstein argued otherwise. The notion that nature was merely a game of chance ran counter to Einstein's core beliefs. Adding fuel to the fire of their debate, Bohr's ideas also contradicted Einstein's groundbreaking theory of relativity because it speculated that these unpredictable sub-atomic particles could move faster than the speed of light.

This debate has raged on in the many decades since Einstein and Bohr made their professional disagreements public. Professor Al-Khalili sets out to resolve this quandary definitively. As his jumping-off point, he calls upon two key ideas related to quantum mechanics - the EPR paradox and Bell's inequality - to properly produce his findings.

His tests involve deep dives into light, color and temperature. He uses coins, cards and other props to illustrate specific lessons. Viewers will be anxious to learn which side of the debate Al-Khalili falls upon in the end, even if they continue to find the concept of quantum mechanics generally confounding.

Unlike many other dense science-based documentaries, Einstein's Nightmare doesn't play like a boring classroom lecture; it has a real vision for unique and engaging settings. It's an ambitious undertaking, and it does a masterful job of communicating complex scientific theory through a series of experiments that are easy to understand and fun to observe.

Directed by: Tim Usborne