October 7, 2019  (Web Review)

Einstein’s Quantum Riddle

(2019) 60 min. DVD: $24.99 ($54.99 w/PPR). PBS Video (www.teacher.shop.pbs.org). SDH captioned. ISBN: 978-1-5317-0937-2.

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Filmmaker Jamie Lochhead’s PBS-aired NOVA documentary tackles the daunting assignment of explaining “quantum entanglement”—an advanced-physics notion—which is framed here as a longstanding debate between geniuses Albert Einstein (against) and Niels Bohr (for). Essentially, the idea is that two subatomic particles mirror each other’s behavior and conditions even while separated across great distances (a performing magician is used here as an illustration). Interesting sidelights into the eccentric personalities of science include the hippie-element physicists of the Woodstock generation who tried to couple quantum notions with Eastern mysticism, along with such big-selling pop-sci books of yesteryear, including Fritjof Capra’s The Tao of Physics (1975). The narrative framing device here is an elaborate Rube Goldberg-esque experiment between two observatories in the Canary Islands involving light from quasars, which tries to prove that quantum entanglement actually exists. Performing a commendable job of putting in layperson’s terms a science conundrum that has baffled some of the world’s greatest minds, this is recommended. Aud: H, C, P. (C. Cassady)