Only Lovers Left Alive, by Jim Jarmusch
Any similarity to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
Somewhat disappointingly (or perhaps I haven't quite got it yet) Jarmusch's latest film (Only Lover's Left Alive) is (in part) about quantum mechanical entanglement but where Einstein is attributed as the origin of this idea. The problem here is that Einstein was very much philosophically opposed to this very idea - and for his entire life. He could not, despite all possible effort, conceive of such a thing. He called it "spooky" which he meant as a criticism. He's the last person to be put at the origin of this idea.
However a more generous position might be to read the film, not as introducing an historical mis-take, but posing a philosophical double take. In other words it could very well be Einstein's characterisation of entanglement as "spooky" that is to be understood as that which Adam is pointing out, ie. it's not the theory itself, but Einstein's characterisation of such: Einstein's 'theory' so to speak.
Now when Eve refers to the theory as wonderful, Adam responds that entanglement is not a theory - because it's been proven (!). Adam is proposing a disjuncture between theory and proof (an excellent idea). So is it Einstein proving that entanglement is spooky? Is that the philosophical double take?
The problem with this possibility is that the spookiness of entanglement is precisely that which Einstein tries to remove (or exorcise) from any theory of entanglement. The EPR experiment (a thought experiment) is precisely such an attempt. But he (they) couldn't do it. Does this failure make Einstein the discoverer of the spookiness? In the sense that exorcism necessarily invokes that which is being is exorcised we could say 'yes', but Einstein is in no more original position than any of the others attempting an exorcism in relation to entanglement (or QM in general). There were many before Einstein and many after. But perhaps Einstein's EPR experiment is one of the better attempts at an exorcism (or 'discovery/invention' of spookiness, to follow this angle). But does this long shot really connect in with the film's philosophical trajectory? I can't really see it.
The bigger picture here, and which the film otherwise does tap into quite well, is the theme of scientists (or lets call them artists) under persecution by the zombies. We say that science studies natural forces but it's important to note that the origin of that term "natural" has a political history. At a certain stage in history it was against the law (over which the Church had undue influence) for scientists to study super-natural things. But we need to understand that by "super-natural" might be something like gravity. Or electromagnetism. Both of these can be regarded as involving "action at a distance" and such a thing was a definite candidate for a super-natural force, ie. in danger of being forbidden from study. The clever solution that scientists conceived was to simply call such things "natural" instead. This is the historical origin of the equation between "nature" and science. It is why the term "nature" is so front and centre in the discourse of science. Had scientists done otherwise eg. called it super-natural, it would have been far more difficult for them to study it. Indeed the death penalty could be risked.
This should be remembered the next time one reads some zombie dismissal of the way science deploys the concept "nature". It is not a truth claim (as the zombies want to think, and as we want them to think) but a strategic use of language.
Now if it's the zombies that impose the law: 'if it's spooky it's not (allowable) science', it sort of makes Einstein a mouthpeice for the zombies. However unlike the zombies Einstein does study entanglement and that's an important distinction. It may be spooky. It may be supernatural, but that doesn't stop Einstein studying it (even if it's to elliminate the spookiness). So more generously (because Einstein was a cool dude anyway) we can read Einstein as another victim of the zombies - if in a kind of Stockholm syndrome (parroting the judiciary). But this still makes it very difficult for Einstein to fit the role of a romantic hero, or martyr, in Adam's (and Jarmusch's) elaboration of entanglement.
On the other hand all of this reminds me of Barthes writing on Einstein in which there is the Einstein who was (and remains) an icon of popular culture. A stand in for all scientists. And it this 'Einstein', methinks, that Adam (and Jarmusch) are channeling.
Somewhat unfortunately methinks. But perhaps I haven't got it yet.
If anyone can be said to have "proved" the spookiness of quantum entanglement it would have to be John Stewart Bell in 1964. Bohr did a pretty good job (in response to Einstein) but only really did it philosophically - which many scientists these days just don't get (and don't want to get). They hate philosophy. Generalising I know. However it's probably impossible to prove "spookiness", at least not within a mathematical framework. Even Bell, using a more statistical method, hated the idea he might be "proving" it (to the extent we can say anyone can prove it). Indeed every quantum mechanic, worth their salt, want to pull their hair out over the spookiness. The more they investigate (good on em) the more hair they lose. An alternative (if you want to keep your hair) is to give statistics some more credibility than it otherwise gets, and (god forbid) have a bit more of a predilection for the strange. To this day and probably to the end of time there will be diehards (no real offense intended) trying to eliminate the particular spookiness of QM. Or perhaps tomorrow they'll do it. In the meantime many are more than content to technologically exploit the spookiness - eg. quantum computers are based on the spooky effects of entanglement. And like their historical counterparts ('magicians, alchemists, etc) they'll call it by it's strategic/traditional/historical name: "nature".
Well, at least while the study of nature remains legal.
Edited by Carl Looper, 27 August 2014 - 07:38 AM.