That’s not how entanglement works

Chris Ferrie
3 min readFeb 22, 2024

In the recent Marvel Cinematic Universe movie The Marvels, the superpowers of three heroes become “entangled,” whereby they swap physical locations when used. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love that quantum physics is getting its fifteen minutes of fame, but this misses the mark big time.

A popular misconception is that entanglement is a mystical connection between distant objects, usually atoms or photons (particles of light), to communicate instantaneously, regardless of the distance separating them. However, even within this conceptual model, the distant things are only correlated — causing them to behave in similar ways — but it has never been suggested that they could swap places. So, even in the already cartoon version of entanglement, the mechanism doesn’t make sense.

Entanglement is actually pretty cool and often misunderstood. Basically, it’s all about the correlation of quantum data. You can use it to do stuff that is impossible with digital data. If you are really curious about how it works, check out a previous blog post below.

For now, I want to tell you some other interesting facts about entanglement that would preclude anything like that depicted in The Marvels.

No Faster-than-Light Communication. By swapping locations instantly, the characters would be able to time travel and run up against paradoxes like the Grandfather Paradox. Faster-than-light travel would allow you to go back in time to kill your grandfather, but then you’d never have been born to carry out the act. The heroes are breaking casualty, where we understand that causes always precede effects. Meanwhile, in the real world, entanglement obeys causality. (The whole “instantaneous communication” thing you hear about in entanglement narratives is wrong.) You can’t use entanglement for instant or faster-than-light travel or communication.

One and Done. Entanglement is a one-time affair. Once used, the “magic” breaks. In The Marvels, they seem to have an unlimited supply of entanglement as if it were a mysterious resource conjured from thin air, or thin space, as it were. In the real world, entanglement is a resource that doesn’t spontaneously regenerate. When entangled atoms, say, are measured, the correlation they previously is destroyed. In fact, in any single go of the entangle-separate-measure cycle, nothing “quantum” is revealed. Even in actual entanglement experiments, many repetitions are needed, and the results must be collated at a common location, before the “connection” can be verified.

No Third Wheels. Entanglement is monogamous. If two things are entangled, neither can be entangled with a third. In The Marvels, each pair of superheroes are entangled. That’s three pairs of entangled things — a big no-no in the quantum world. Yes, three things can be entangled, but it’s a different kind of correlation. In such a state, all three share a commonality that no pair does. I would have liked to see three-way correlation explored in this fictional narrative.

Well, there you have it. Did I ruined the movie for myself? Not really. I’m not trying to be pedantic, but they might as well said they could swap places because they all had an mRNA vaccine at the same time. In fact, that would have been far better for the spread of quantum misinformation as well as garnering way more attention online. You can have that one for free, Marvel script writers.

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Dr. Chris Ferrie



Chris Ferrie

Quantum theorist by day, father by night. Occasionally moonlighting as a author.