Having written in defense of analogies in physics yesterday, I should note that not all of the analogies that are brought out in an attempt to clarify physics concepts are good. For example, there’s this incredibly strained opening to a Science News article on entanglement:
If the Manning brothers were quantum physicists as well as NFL quarterbacks, one of them could win his game’s opening coin toss every time. The night before they played, the brothers would take two coins from a special quantum box to use the next day. If Peyton’s game came first, after learning the outcome of his coin toss, he would know without a doubt how his brother’s coin would land. Say Peyton’s came up heads; he could text “tails” to his little brother. Eli would correctly call tails in his later game and win the toss (not that it would do the Giants much good).
Look, I like football, and even root for a team quarterbacked by a Manning, but this is just dopey. And the occasional calls back to it later in the article don’t add anything either. It feels less like the natural outcome of an attempt to explain an odd piece of physics than the result of an editor saying “You know what this needs? Some sort of sports reference. Football’s popular, put some football in it.”
Which is a pity, because it’s otherwise a pretty good survey of recent research on entanglement in quantum mechanics. A few of the details are a little bit off, but it hits most of the important points. If you took out the strained and perfunctory mentions of the NFL, it would be even better.