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Posted by Nicholas on November 28, 2002 22:26:21 UTC

The situation you just described appears to me to be essentially equivalent to the situation dealt with by Bell's Inequality. Basically, you have a spacelike separation of two events and the observation of one will immediately determine the other. This does violate relativity as originally stated by Einstein, but modern interpretations of the theory can explain it.

The reason that it would be bad for things to move faster than the speed of light is that causality would be violated. That is, the effect could happen before the cause. This would totally wreak havoc with physics (glasses would be shattering before they hit the ground and presidents would be elected before the voting was completed).

At first glance, it would appear that the situation you described will indeed wreak such havoc. There is a trick, however. These quantum mechanical quirks are completely SYMMETRIC; that is, the cause and effect are completely interchangable. I can just as well say that the absence of the electron on earth "caused" its presence far away as I can say the opposite (its presence far away caused its absence on earth). Thus, causality is not really violated, despite the transport of information over spacelike separations. If there was some required order of events (if, for example, the observation of one box resulted in the destruction of the other), then we would have problems.

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