One of my favorite past times, as I traveled the world, was participating as a member of the Hash House Harriers Running Club. The premise often involved hundreds of runners (pack or hounds) looking for clues along the road to indicate the correct path, better known as “True Trail” in order to get to the finish line. The clues are left on sidewalks by designated runners, called “Rabbits”. As one might expect the lead rabbit would leave clues for the correct path, while two or three other rabbits would leave misleading signs or “False Trails” enticing anyone willing to follow to a dead end. It was designed to keep the pack together.
The acceleration of evolution towards a time of infinitely rapid change is not so exceptional as one might at first suppose. The evolution of matter in a star follows a similar pattern.
For 99.99 percent of its existence a star burns hydrogen, fusing the atoms into helium and radiating the energy released as light. Eventually the hydrogen runs out. For a star the size of our Sun this happens after about 10 billion years – it is currently about half way through its life. Larger stars burn up more quickly, smaller ones can last as long as a 100 billion years.
When a revolutionary new technique or therapy is described, it can take a while for science to catch up. Funding must be obtained to conduct studies. Studies must be performed, reviewed by committees of the researchers’ peers, critiqued, refined, and replicated.
This process takes years, and often decades. Much of the medical progress in the last fifty years has resulted from studies that build upon studies, from step by step incremental experimentation, with each step extending the reach of our knowledge a little bit further.
This evolutionary progress over the lifetimes of the last few generations has encouraged us to think that this is the way that science progresses. Yes, it is a way – but it is not the only way. There are scores of important medical procedures that were discovered years, or decades, or even centuries, before the experimental confirmation arrived to demonstrate the principles behind the treatment.
In 1982 a remarkable event took place. At the University of Paris a research team led by physicist Alain Aspect performed what may turn out to be one of the most important experiments of the 20th century. You did not hear about it on the evening news. In fact, unless you are in the habit of reading scientific journals you probably have never even heard Aspect’s name, though there are some who believe his discovery may change the face of science.
Aspect and his team discovered that under certain circumstances subatomic particles such as electrons are able to instantaneously communicate with each other regardless of the distance separating them. It doesn’t matter whether they are 10 feet or 10 billion miles apart.