Has Physics Ever Been Deterministic? New Insights on the Relationship Between Classical and Quantum Physics – SciTechDaily

Bagatelle or pin-board game. Credit: Lorenzo Nocchi

Researchers from the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the University of Vienna and the University of Geneva, have proposed a new interpretation of classical physics without real numbers. This new study challenges the traditional view of classical physics as deterministic.

In classical physics it is usually assumed that if we know where an object is and its velocity, we can exactly predict where it will go. An alleged superior intelligence having the knowledge of all existing objects at present, would be able to know with certainty the future as well as the past of the universe with infinite precision. Pierre-Simon Laplace illustrated this argument, later called Laplaces demon, in the early 1800s to illustrate the concept of determinism in classical physics. It is generally believed that it was only with the advent of quantum physics that determinism was challenged. Scientists found out that not everything can be said with certainty and we can only calculate the probability that something could behave in a certain way.

But is really classical physics completely deterministic? Flavio Del Santo, researcher at Vienna Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the University of Vienna, and Nicolas Gisin from the University of Geneva, address this question in their new article Physics without Determinism: Alternative Interpretations of Classical Physics, published in the journal Physical Review A.

Building on previous works of the latter author, they show that the usual interpretation of classical physics is based on tacit additional assumptions. When we measure something, say the length of a table with a ruler, we find a value with a finite precision, meaning with a finite number of digits. Even if we use a more accurate measurement instrument, we will just find more digits, but still a finite number of them. However, classical physics assumes that even if we may not be able to measure them, there exist an infinite number of predetermined digits. This means that the length of the table is always perfectly determined.

Imagine now to play a variant of the Bagatelle or pin-board game (as in figure), where a board is symmetrically filled with pins. When a little ball rolls down the board, it will hit the pins and move either to the right or to the left of each of them. In a deterministic world, the perfect knowledge of the initial conditions under which the ball enters the board (its velocity and position) determines unambiguously the path that the ball will follow between the pins. Classical physics assumes that if we cannot obtain the same path in different runs, it is only because in practice we were not able to set precisely the same initial conditions. For instance, because we do not have an infinitely precise measurement instrument to set the initial position of the ball when entering the board.

The authors of this new study propose an alternative view: after a certain number of pins, the future of the ball is genuinely random, even in principle, and not due to the limitations of our measurement instruments. At each hit, the ball has a certain propensity or tendency to bounce on the right or on the left, and this choice is not determined a priori. For the first few hits, the path can be determined with certainty, that is the propensity is 100% for the one side and 0% for the other. After a certain number of pins, however, the choice is not pre-determined and the propensity gradually reaches 50% for the right and 50% for the left for the distant pins. In this way, one can think of each digit of the length of our table as becoming determined by a process similar to the choice of going left or right at each hit of the little ball. Therefore, after a certain number of digits, the length is not determined anymore.

The new model introduced by the researchers hence refuses the usual attribution of a physical meaning to mathematical real numbers (numbers with infinite predetermined digits). It states instead that after a certain number of digits their values become truly random, and only the propensity of taking a specific value is well defined. This leads to new insights on the relationship between classical and quantum physics. In fact, when, how and under what circumstances an indeterminate quantity takes a definite value is a notorious question in the foundations of quantum physics, known as the quantum measurement problem. This is related to the fact that in the quantum world it is impossible to observe reality without changing it. In fact, the value of a measurement on a quantum object is not yet established until an observer actually measures it. This new study, on the other hand, points out that the same issue could have always been hidden also behind the reassuring rules of classical physics.

Reference: Physics without determinism: Alternative interpretations of classical physics by Flavio Del Santo and Nicolas Gisin, 5 December 2019, Physical Review A.DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevA.100.062107

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Has Physics Ever Been Deterministic? New Insights on the Relationship Between Classical and Quantum Physics - SciTechDaily

Atos boosts quantum application development through the creation of the first Quantum User Group – GlobeNewswire

Paris, France, December 12, 2019 Following on from the 6thmeeting of its Quantum Scientific Council, Atos, a global leader in digital transformation, announces that it is continuing to enrich its quantum development ecosystem, through the creation of a global User Group of the Atos Quantum Learning Machine (QLM), which will be chaired by a representative from French multi-national energy company Total. This announcement follows the commercial success of the QLM, the world's highest-performing quantum programming appliance, allowing for the first time to simulate quantic behaviors. This ecosystem is supported by the Atos Quantum Scientific Council, which includes universally recognized quantum physicists. It is also further enhanced by partners such as leading software company Zapata and start-up Xofia.

Just two years on from its launch in 2017, Atos QLM users continue to grow as the QLM is being used in numerous countries worldwide includingAustria,France,Germany, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands,UKand theUnited States, empowering major research programs in various sectors.

The User Group will bring together current QLM customers and their ecosystems of users from around the world, including research centers, universities and global industrial companies. It will be chaired by a representative from Total, Henri Calandra, Expert in Numerical Methods and High Performance Computing. This QLM User Group aims to drive advances in quantum programming and simulation, as well as to develop and enrich collaboration between users and share best practice and support. Feedback will be used to influence Atos QLM evolutions and further enhance the technical support that it provides its customers, paving the road towards the new world of quantum computing.

Atos is committed to enrich its quantum ecosystem and with this, its research program in order to continue to provide researchers worldwide with the right conditions and solutions so that they can take advantage of the innovative opportunities provided by quantum computing. We have some of the worlds leading scientists on our Quantum Scientific Council which, together with our rich base of QLM customers, means we are creating the most advanced quantum ecosystem said Elie Girard, CEO of Atos Now, with the creation of this Group of Atos QLM Users, we are ensuring that we continue to support them to develop new advances in deep learning, algorithmics and artificial intelligence with the support of the breakthrough computing acceleration capacities that quantum simulation provides.

As President of this new User Group, Total is involved in the advancement of quantum research, together with Atos. Quantum simulationenables us to explore new ways of solving complex problems, improve performance and drive significant technological advances to prepare the future of low carbon energy. This contributes to realizing Totals ambition: to become the responsible energy major, said Marie-Noelle Semeria, Senior Vice President, Group CTO at Total.

The Quantum Scientific Council is made up of universally recognized quantum physicists, including Nobel prize laureate in Physics, Serge Haroche; Research Director, CEA Saclay, and Head of Quantronics, Daniel Estve; professor at the Institut dOptique and Ecole Polytechnique, Alain Aspect; Alexander von Humboldt Professor, Director of the Institute for Theoretical Nanoelectronics at the Juelich Research Center, David DiVincenzo; and Professor of Quantum Physics at the Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford and Singapore, Artur Ekert.

Atos ambitious program to anticipate the future of quantum computing and to be prepared for the opportunities as well as the risks that come with it - Atos Quantum program - was launched in November 2016. As a result of this initiative,Atos was the first organization to offer a quantum noisy simulation module, the Atos QLM. Earlier this year, it launched myQLM, a free tool that allows a broader ecosystem to get acquainted with quantum programming and discover some features of the Atos QLM.

Quantum computing should make it possible, in the years to come, to deal with the explosion of data, which Big Data and the Internet of Things bring about. With its targeted and unprecedented compute acceleration capabilities, notably based on the exascale class supercomputerBullSequana, quantum computing should also promote advances in deep learning, algorithmics and artificial intelligence for areas as various as pharmaceuticals or new materials.

For more information:Atos Quantum###

Photo caption: 6thmeeting of its Quantum Scientific Council at its headquarters in BezonsFrom left to right: Cyril Allouche, Director of Atos Quantum Lab, Atos.Philippe Duluc, SVP Big Data and Security Division, Atos.Philippe Vannier, Special advisor to the Chairman and CEO, for Science, Technology and Cybersecurity.Alain Aspect, Professor at the Institut dOptique and at the lcole Polytechnique.Sophie Proust, Chief Technology Office, Atos.Artur Ekert, Professer od quantum physics at the Institute of Mathematics, Oxford University and Singapore University.Elie Girard, CEO of Atos.Daniel Estve, Director of Research CEA Saclay, Director of Quantronics.David DiVincenzo, Professor at the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Director of the Institute of Theoretical Nanoelectronics at the at the Jlich Research Centre.Serge Haroche, Professor Emeritus at the Collge de France, Nobel Prize in Physics.

About AtosAtos is a global leader in digital transformation with over 110,000 employees in 73 countries and annual revenue of over 11 billion. European number one in Cloud, Cybersecurity and High-Performance Computing, the Group provides end-to-end Orchestrated Hybrid Cloud, Big Data, Business Applications and Digital Workplace solutions. The group is the Worldwide Information Technology Partner for the Olympic & Paralympic Games and operates under the brands Atos, Atos Syntel, and Unify. Atos is a SE (Societas Europaea), listed on the CAC40 Paris stock index.

The purpose of Atos is to help design the future of the information technology space. Its expertise and services support the development of knowledge, education as well as multicultural and pluralistic approaches to research that contribute to scientific and technological excellence. Across the world, the group enables its customers, employees and collaborators, and members of societies at large to live, work and develop sustainably and confidently in the information technology space.

Press contact:Laura Fau | laura.fau@atos.net | +33 6 73 64 04 18 | @laurajanefau

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Atos boosts quantum application development through the creation of the first Quantum User Group - GlobeNewswire

What Is Planck’s Constant, and Why Does the Universe Depend on It? – HowStuffWorks


If you're a fan of the Netflix series "Stranger Things," you've seen the climatic season three scene, in which Dustin tries to cajole his brainy long-distance girlfriend Suzie over a ham radio connection into telling him the precise value of something called Planck's constant, which also happens to be the code to open a safe that contains the keys needed to close the gate to a malevolent alternative universe.

But before Suzie will recite the magic number, she exacts a high price: Dustin has to sing the theme song to the movie "The NeverEnding Story."

This may all have led you to wonder: What exactly is Planck's constant, anyway?

The constant devised in 1900 by a German physicist named Max Planck, who would win the 1918 Nobel Prize for his work is a crucial part of quantum mechanics, the branch of physics which deals with the tiny particles that make up matter and the forces involved in their interactions. From computer chips and solar panels to lasers, "it's the physics that explains how everything works."

Planck and other physicists in the late 1800s and early 1900s were trying to understand the difference between classical mechanics that is, the motion of bodies in the observable world around us, described by Sir Isaac Newton in the late 1600s and an invisible world of the ultrasmall, where energy behaves in some ways like a wave and in some ways like a particle, also known as a photon.

"In quantum mechanics, physics works different from our experiences in the macroscopic world," explains Stephan Schlamminger, a physicist for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, by email. As an explanation, he cites the example of a familiar harmonic oscillator, a child on a swing set.

"In classical mechanics, the child can be at any amplitude (height) on the swing's path," Schlamminger says. "The energy that the system has is proportional to the square of the amplitude. Hence, the child can swing at any continuous range of energies from zero up to a certain point."

But when you get down to the level of quantum mechanics, things behave differently. "The amount of energy that an oscillator could have is discrete, like rungs on a ladder," Schlamminger says. "The energy levels are separated by h times f, where f is the frequency of the photon a particle of light an electron would release or absorb to go from one energy level to another."

In this 2016 video, another NIST physicist, Darine El Haddad, explains Planck's constant using the metaphor of putting sugar in coffee. "In classical mechanics, energy is continuous, meaning if I take my sugar dispenser, I can pour any amount of sugar into my coffee," she says. "Any amount of energy is OK."

"But Max Planck found something very different when he looked deeper, she explains in the video. "Energy is quantized, or it's discrete, meaning I can only add one sugar cube or two or three. Only a certain amount of energy is allowed."

Planck's constant defines the amount of energy that a photon can carry, according to the frequency of the wave in which it travels.

Electromagnetic radiation and elementary particles "display intrinsically both particle and wave properties," explains Fred Cooper, an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute, an independent research center in New Mexico, by email. "The fundamental constant which connects these two aspects of these entities is Planck's constant. Electromagnetic energy cannot be transferred continuously but is transferred by discrete photons of light whose energy E is given by E = hf, where h is Planck's constant, and f is the frequency of the light."

One of the confusing things for nonscientists about Planck's constant is that the value assigned to it has changed by tiny amounts over time. Back in 1985, the accepted value was h = 6.626176 x 10-34 Joule-seconds. The current calculation, done in 2018, is h = 6.62607015 x 10-34 Joule-seconds.

"While these fundamental constants are fixed in the fabric of the universe, we humans don't know their exact values," Schlamminger explains. "We have to build experiments to measure these fundamental constants to the best of humankind's ability. Our knowledge comes from a few experiments that were averaged to produce a mean value for the Planck constant."

To measure Planck's constant, scientists have used two different experiments theKibble balance and the X-ray crystal density (XRCD) method, and over time, they've developed a better understanding of how to get a more precise number. "When a new number is published, the experimenters put forward their best number as well as their best calculation of the uncertainty in their measurement," Schlamminger says. "The true, but unknown value of the constant, should hopefully lie in the interval of plus/minus the uncertainty around the published number, with a certain statistical probability." At this point, "we are confident that the true value is not far off. The Kibble balance and the XRCD method are so different that it would be a major coincidence that both ways agree so well by chance."

That tiny imprecision in scientists' calculations isn't a big deal in the scheme of things. But if Planck's constant was a significantly bigger or smaller number, "all the world around us would be completely different," explains Martin Fraas, an assistant professor in mathematics at Virginia Tech, by email. If the value of the constant was increased, for example, stable atoms might be many times bigger than stars.

The size of a kilogram, which came into force on May 20, 2019, as agreed upon by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (whose French acronym is BIPM) is now based upon Planck's constant.


What Is Planck's Constant, and Why Does the Universe Depend on It? - HowStuffWorks

This Week in Tech: What on Earth Is a Quantum Computer? – The New York Times

David Bacon, senior software engineer in Googles quantum lab: Quantum computers do computations in parallel universes. This by itself isnt useful. U only get to exist in 1 universe at a time! The trick: quantum computers dont just split universes, they also merge universes. And this merge can add and subtract those other split universes.

David Reilly, principal researcher and director of the Microsoft quantum computing lab in Sydney, Australia: A quantum machine is a kind of analog calculator that computes by encoding information in the ephemeral waves that comprise light and matter at the nanoscale. Quantum entanglement likely the most counterintuitive thing around holds it all together, detecting and fixing errors.

Daniel Lidar, professor of electrical and computer engineering, chemistry, and physics and astronomy at the University of Southern California, with his daughter Nina, in haiku:

Quantum computerssolve some problems much fasterbut are prone to noise

Superpositions:to explore multiple pathsto the right answer

Interference helps:cancels paths to wrong answersand boosts the right ones

Entanglement makesclassical computers sweat,QCs win the race

Scott Aaronson, professor of computer science at the University of Texas at Austin: A quantum computer exploits interference among positive and negative square roots of probabilities to solve certain problems much faster than we think possible classically, in a way that wouldnt be nearly so interesting were it possible to explain in the space of a tweet.

Alan Baratz, executive vice president of research and development at D-Wave Systems: If were honest, everything we currently know about quantum mechanics cant fully describe how a quantum computer works. Whats more important, and even more interesting, is what a quantum computer can do: A.I., new molecules, new materials, modeling climate change

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This Week in Tech: What on Earth Is a Quantum Computer? - The New York Times

Are the Laws of the Universe Inevitable? – Discovery Institute

Natalie Wolchover at Quanta Magazine has a thoughtful but misguided essay on the inevitability of the laws of nature. She writes:

Compared to the unsolved mysteries of the universe, far less gets said about one of the most profound facts to have crystallized in physics over the past half-century: To an astonishing degree, nature is the way it is because it couldnt be any different. Theres just no freedom in the laws of physics that we have, saidDaniel Baumann, a theoretical physicist at the University of Amsterdam.

She cites Baumann to describe the incredible interlocked intricacy of physical laws:

[L]aws essentially dictate one another through their mutual consistency that nature pulls itself up by its own bootstraps. The idea turns out to explain a huge amount about the universe.

Wolchover describes how the forces of nature seem to emerge almost miraculously (the word is chosen by physicist Adam Falkowski in a comment quoted by Wolchover) from the mathematics of quantum mechanics:

[P]hysicists determine how elementary particles with different amounts of spin, or intrinsic angular momentum, can consistently behave. In doing this, they rediscover the four fundamental forces that shape the universe. Most striking is the case of a particle with two units of spin: As the Nobel Prize winner Steven Weinbergshowedin 1964, the existence of a spin-2 particle leads inevitably to general relativity Albert Einsteins theory of gravity. Einstein arrived at general relativity through abstract thoughts about falling elevators and warped space and time, but the theory also follows directly from the mathematically consistent behavior of a fundamental particle.

This beautiful simplicity of the laws of nature seem almost inevitable.

I find this inevitability of gravity [and other forces] to be one of the deepest and most inspiring facts about nature, saidLaurentiu Rodina, a theoretical physicist at the Institute of Theoretical Physics at CEA Saclay who helped tomodernize and generalizeWeinbergs proof in 2014. Namely, that nature is above all self-consistent.

What is inevitable here is not the mathematical beauty of physical law, but the circumlocutions scientists use to evade design in nature. If anything in the universe is inevitable, it is entropy and chaos. Nature falls apart, inevitably. Yet there is nothing inevitable about natures elegant harmony. Mathematical physics indeed reveals deep structure in nature, and most remarkably, that structure is beautiful, full of unexpected simplicity and poetic coincidence. Antimatter is hidden in Diracs relativistic wave equation, and oscillating bodies from galaxies to ocean waves to quarks are described quite elegantly by the simple calculus of oscillating springs. Einsteins metric tensor contains the Big Bang and black holes and an enormous but finite universe curved back in on itself.

None of this splendor and precision is inevitable, any more than a Shakespearean sonnet or the Sistine ceiling are inevitable. The mathematical subtlety of physics is the work of a living Mind of inexpressible grace and power.

The design of nature is not inevitable. Creation is from purpose, not decay. Those select scientists who are privileged to see and understand the intricate mathematical beauty of nature owe its Author a citation.

Photo: Jupiters Cloud Tops: From High to Low, by NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstadt.

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Are the Laws of the Universe Inevitable? - Discovery Institute

Inside the weird, wild, and wondrous world of quantum video games – Digital Trends

IBM Research

In 1950, a man named John Bennett, an Australian employee of the now-defunct British technology firm Ferranti, created what may be historys first gaming computer. It could play a game called Nim, a long-forgotten parlor game in which players take turns removing matches from several piles. The player who loses is the one who removes the last match. For his computerized version, Bennett created a vast machine 12 feet wide, 5 feet tall, and 9 feet deep. The majority of this space was taken up by light-up vacuum tubes which depicted the virtual matches.

Bennetts aim wasnt to create a game-playing machine for the sake of it; the reason that somebody might build a games PC today. As writer Tristan Donovan observed in Replay, his superlative 2010 history of video games: Despite suggesting Ferranti create a game-playing computer, Bennetts aim was not to entertain but to show off the ability of computers to do [math].

Jump forward almost 70 years and a physicist and computer scientist named Dr. James Robin Wootton is using games to demonstrate the capabilities of another new, and equally large, experimental computer. The computer in this question is a quantum computer, a dream of scientists since the 1980s, now finally becoming a scientific reality.

Quantum computers encode information as delicate correlations with an incredibly rich structure. This allows for potentially mind-boggling densities of information to be stored and manipulated. Unlike a classical computer, which encodes as a series of ones and zeroes, the bits (called qubits) in a quantum computer can be either a one, a zero, or both at the same time. These qubits are composed of subatomic particles, which conform to the rules of quantum rather than classical mechanics. They play by their own rules a little bit like Tom Cruises character Maverick from Top Gun if he spent less time buzzing the tower and more time demonstrating properties like superpositions and entanglement.

I met Wootton at IBMs research lab in Zurich on a rainy day in late November. Moments prior, I had squeezed into a small room with a gaggle of other excited onlookers, where we stood behind a rope and stared at one of IBMs quantum computers like people waiting to be allowed into an exclusive nightclub. I was reminded of the way that people, in John Bennetts day, talked about the technological priesthood surrounding computers: then enormous mainframes sequestered away in labyrinthine chambers, tended to by highly qualified people in white lab coats. Lacking the necessary seminary training, we quantum computer visitors could only bask in its ambience from a distance, listening in reverent silence to the weird vee-oing vee-oing vee-oing sound of its cooling system.

Wottons interest in quantum gaming came about from exactly this scenario. In 2016, he attended a quantum computing event at the same Swiss ski resort where, in 1925, Erwin Schrdinger had worked out his famous Schrdinger wave equation while on vacation with a girlfriend. If there is a ground zero for quantum computing, this was it. Wotton was part of a consortium, sponsored by the Swiss government, to do (and help spread the word about) quantum computing.

At that time quantum computing seemed like it was something that was very far away, he told Digital Trends. Companies and universities were working on it, but it was a topic of research, rather than something that anyone on the street was likely to get their hands on. We were talking about how to address this.

Wootton has been a gamer since the early 1990s. I won a Game Boy in a competition in a wrestling magazine, he said. It was a Slush Puppy competition where you had to come up with a new flavor. My Slush Puppy flavor was called something like Rollin Redcurrant. Im not sure if you had to use the adjective. Maybe thats what set me apart.

While perhaps not a straight path, Wootton knew how an interest in gaming could lead people to an interest in other aspects of technology. He suggested that making games using quantum computing might be a good way of raising public awareness of the technology.He applied for support and, for the next year, was given to my amazement the chance to go and build an educational computer game about quantum computing. At the time, a few people warned me that this was not going to be good for my career, he said. [They told me] I should be writing papers and getting grants; not making games.

But the idea was too tantalizing to pass up.

That same year, IBM launched its Quantum Experience, an online platform granting the general public (at least those with a background in linear algebra) access to IBMs prototype quantum processors via the cloud. Combined with Project Q, a quantum SDK capable of running jobs on IBMs devices, this took care of both the hardware and software component of Woottons project. What he needed now was a game. Woottons first attempt at creating a quantum game for the public was a version of the game Rock-Paper-Scissors, named Cat-Box-Scissors after the famous Schrdingers cat thought experiment. Wootton later dismissed it as [not] very good Little more than a random number generator with a story.

But others followed. There was Battleships, his crack at the first multiplayer game made with a quantum computer. There was Quantum Solitaire. There was a text-based dungeon crawler, modeled on 1973s Hunt the Wumpus, called Hunt the Quantpus. Then the messily titled, but significant, Battleships with partial NOT gates, which Wootton considers the first true quantum computer game, rather than just an experiment. And so on. As games, these dont exactly make Red Dead Redemption 2 look like yesterdays news. Theyre more like Atari 2600 or Commodore 64 games in their aesthetics and gameplay. Still, thats exactly what youd expect from the embryonic phases of a new computing architecture.

If youd like to try out a quantum game for yourself, youre best off starting with Hello Quantum, available for both iOS and Android. It reimagines the principles of quantum computing as a puzzle game in which players must flip qubits. It wont make you a quantum expert overnight, but it will help demystify the process a bit. (With every level, players can hit a learn more button for a digestible tutorial on quantum basics.)

Quantum gaming isnt just about educational outreach, though. Just as John Bennett imagined Nim as a game that would exist to show off a computers abilities, only to unwittingly kickstart a $130 billion a year industry, so quantum games are moving beyond just teaching players lessons about quantum computing.Increasingly, Wootton is excited about what he sees as real world uses for quantum computing. One of the most promising of these is taking advantage of quantum computings random number generating to create random terrain within computer games. In Zurich, he showed me a three-dimensional virtual landscape reminiscent of Minecraft. However, while much of the world of Minecraft is user generated, in this case the blocky, low-resolution world was generated using a quantum computer.

Quantum mechanics is known for its randomness, so the easiest possibility is just to use quantum computing as a [random number generator], Wootton said. I have a game in which I use only one qubit: the smallest quantum computer you can get. All you can do is apply operations that change the probabilities of getting a zero or one as output. I use that to determine the height of the terrain at any point in the game map.

Plenty of games made with classical computers have already included procedurally generated elements over the years. But as the requirements for these elements ranging from randomly generated enemies to entire maps increase in complexity, quantum could help.

Gaming is an industry that is very dependent on how fast things run

Gaming is an industry that is very dependent on how fast things run, he continued. If theres a factor of 10 difference in how long it takes something to run that determines whether you can actually use it in a game. He sees today as a great jumping-on point for people in the gaming industry to get involved to help shape the future development of quantum computing. Its going to be driven by what people want, he explained. If people find an interesting use-case and everyone wants to use quantum computing for a game where you have to submit a job once per frame, that will help dictate the way that the technology is made.

Hes now reached the point where he thinks the race may truly be on to develop the first commercial game using a quantum computer. Weve been working on these proof-of-principle projects, but now I want to work with actual game studios on actual problems that they have, he continued. That means finding out what they want and how they want the technology to be [directed].

One thing thats for certain is that Wootton is no longer alone in developing his quantum games. In the last couple of years, a number ofquantum game jams have popped up around the world. What most people have done is to start small, Wootton said. They often take an existing game and use one or two qubits to help allow you to implement a quantum twist on the game mechanics. Following this mantra, enthusiasts have used quantum computing to make remixed versions of existing games, including Dr. Qubit (a quantum version of Dr. Mario), Quantum Cat-sweeper (a quantum version of Minesweeper), and Quantum Pong (a quantum version of, err, Pong).

The world of quantum gaming has moved beyond its 1950 equivalent of Nim. Now we just have to wait and see what happens next. The decades which followed Nim gave us MITs legendary Spacewar in the 1960s, the arcade boom of the 1970s and 80s, the console wars of Sega vs. Nintendo, the arrival of the Sony PlayStation in the 1990s, and so on. In the process, classical computers became part of our lives in a way they never were before. As Whole Earth Catalog founder Stewart Brand predicted as far back as 1972 Rolling Stone in his classic essay on Spacewar: Ready or not, computers are coming to the people.

At present, quantum gamings future is at a crossroads. Is it an obscure niche occupied by just a few gaming physics enthusiasts or a powerful tool that will shape tomorrows industry? Is it something that will teach us all to appreciate the finer points of quantum physics or a tool many of us wont even realize is being used, that will nevertheless give us some dope ass games to play?

Like Schrdingers cat, right now its both at once. What a superposition to be in.

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Inside the weird, wild, and wondrous world of quantum video games - Digital Trends

Even In A Quantum Universe, Space And Time Might Be Continuous, Not Discrete – Forbes

We often visualize space as a 3D grid, even though this is a frame-dependent oversimplification when... [+] we consider the concept of spacetime. The question of whether space and time are discrete or continuous, and whether there's a smallest possible length scale, is still unanswered. However, we do know that below the Planck distance scale, we cannot predict anything with any accuracy at all.

If you want to learn what the Universe is made out of at a fundamental level, your instinct would be to divide it up into smaller and smaller chunks until you can divide it no farther. Many of the things we observe, measure, or otherwise interact with in our macroscopic world are composed of smaller particles. If you sufficiently understand the most fundamental entities that underlie reality, as well as the laws that govern them, you should be able to understand and derive the rules and behaviors seen in the complex, larger world.

For matter and radiation as we understand it, there's very good evidence that every single thing we've ever been able to observe or measure is quantum at some level. There are fundamental, indivisible, energy-carryingquanta that make up the matter and energy we know of. But quantized doesn't necessarily mean discrete; you can be quantum and continuous as well. Which ones are space and time? Here's how we'll find out.

All massless particles travel at the speed of light, including the photon, gluon and gravitational... [+] waves, which carry the electromagnetic, strong nuclear and gravitational interactions, respectively. We can treat every quantum of energy as discrete, but whether we can do the same for space and/or time itself is unknown.

When we look to our description of the Universe what it's made of, what laws and rules govern it, what interactions occur or are even possible there's no onecalculation you can perform to encompass all of it. There are the rules of the quantum Universe that govern the very, very small, describing the electromagnetic and nuclear (both weak and strong) forces as interactions between quantum particles and quantum fields.

If you have a system of matter or radiation that contains energy, if you examine it on a small enough scale, you'll find that it can be broken down into individual quanta: energy packets which behave as either waves or particles, depending on what they interact with and how. Even though every system must be made up of individual quanta, with properties like mass, charge, spin and more, not every property of every quantum system is discrete.

The energy level differences in Lutetium-177. Note how there are only specific, discrete energy... [+] levels that are acceptable. While the energy levels are discrete, the positions of the electrons are not.

Discrete means that you can divide something up into a localized, distinct sections that are inherently separate from one another. The counterpart of discrete is continuous, where there are no such division. If you take a conducting band of metal, for instance, you can ask questions about what energy level the electron occupies and where the electron is physically located. Surprisingly, the energy levels are discrete, but the position of the electron is not; it can be anywhere, continuously, within that band. Even if something is fundamentally quantum, not everything about it must be discrete.

Now, let's try and fold gravity into the mix. Arguablythe only important force in the Universe on the largest scales of all, gravity not have a self-consistent quantum description. We do not know whether a quantum theory of gravity even exists, although we conventionally assume it does and that we just have to find it.

Quantum gravity tries to combine Einsteins General theory of Relativity with quantum mechanics.... [+] Quantum corrections to classical gravity are visualized as loop diagrams, as the one shown here in white. Whether space (or time) itself is discrete or continuous is not yet decided, as is the question of whether gravity is quantized at all, or particles, as we know them today, are fundamental or not. But if we hope for a fundamental theory of everything, it must include quantized fields, which General Relativity does not do on its own.

Assuming that one exists, there's a follow-up question we could ask that would illuminate an extraordinarily fundamental property of the Universe: are space and time discrete or continuous? Are there tiny, indivisible chunks of space that exist at some small scale that can be divided no further, where particles can only "jump" from one to the other? Is time broken up into uniformly sized chunks that pass by one discrete "instant" at a time?

Believe it or not, the idea that space or time could be quantized goes back not to Einstein, but to Heisenberg. Heisenberg's famous uncertainty principle fundamentally limits how precisely certain pairs of quantities like position and momentum, energy and time, or angular momentum in two perpendicular directions can be precisely measured. If you tried to calculate certain physical quantities in quantum field theory, the expected value diverged, or went to infinity, which means they gave nonsense answers.

An illustration between the inherent uncertainty between position and momentum at the quantum level.... [+] There is a limit to how well you can measure these two quantities simultaneously, as multiplying those two uncertainties together can yield a value that must be larger than a certain finite amount. When one is known more accurately, the other is inherently less able to be known with any degree of meaningful accuracy.

But upon noticing how those divergences occurred, he recognized that there was a potential fix: these unphysical infinities would disappear if you postulated that space wasn't continuous, but rather had a minimum distance scale inherent to it. In the parlance of mathematics and physics, a theory without a minimum distance scale is non-renormalizable, which means you cannot make the probability of all the possible outcomes add up to one.

However, with a minimum distance scale, all those nonsense answers from earlier suddenly make sense: your quantum field theories are now fully renormalizable. We can calculate things sensibly, and get physically meaningful answers. To understand why, imagine taking a quantum particle that you understand and place it in a box. It will act like both a particle and a wave, but must always be confined to be inside the box.

If you confine a particle to a space, and try to measure its properties, there will be quantum... [+] effects proportional to Planck's constant and the size of the box. If the box is very small, below a certain length scale, these properties become impossible to calculate.

Now, you decide to ask a critical question of this particle, "where is it?" The way you answer that is by making a measurement, which means causing another quantum of energy to interact with the one you placed in the box. You'll get an answer, but that answer will also have an uncertainty inherent to it: proportional to/L, where is the Planck constant and L is the size of the box.

Under most circumstances, the box we'd deal with is large compared to the other distance scales we're physically interested in, so even though is small, the fraction/L (if L is large) is even smaller. The uncertainty, therefore, is typically small compared to the measured answer you get.

But what ifL is very small? What ifL is so small that the uncertainty term,/L, is larger than the answer term? In that case, the higher-order terms that we normally neglect, like (/L)2, (/L)3 and so on, can no longer be ignored. The corrections get bigger and bigger, and there's no sensible way to deconstruct the problem.

The objects we've interacted with in the Universe range from very large, cosmic scales down to about... [+] 10^-19 meters, with the newest record set by the LHC. There's a long, long way down (in size) and up (in energy) to either the scales that the hot Big Bang achieves, or the Planck scale, which is around 10^-35 meters.

However, if you don't treat space as continuous but rather as discrete, then there's a lower limit to how small something can get: an effective limit to how small you're allowed to makeL, the size of your box. By introducing a cutoff scale, you restrict yourself from using anLthat's below a particular value. Imposing a minimum distance like this not only resolves the pathological case of a too-tiny box, but saves us a number of headaches that would otherwise plague us as we try to calculate how the quantum Universe behaves.

In the 1960s, physicist Alden Mean demonstrated that adding Einstein's gravitation into the normal mix of quantum field theory only amplifies the uncertainty inherent to position; it therefore becomes impossible to make sense of distances shorter than a specific scale: the Planck distance. Below about 10-35 meters, the physics calculations we can perform give answers that are nonsensical.

Going to smaller and smaller distance scales reveals more fundamental views of nature, which means... [+] if we can understand and describe the smallest scales, we can build our way to an understanding of the largest ones. We do not know whether there is a lower limit to how small 'chunks of space' can be.

However, Einstein's theory of gravity is a purely classical picture of gravitation, and as such there are a number of physical systems that it's incapable of describing. For example, when an electron (a charged, massive, spinning quantum of energy) passes through a double slit, it will behave as though it's simultaneously passing through both slits and once and interfering with itself. What happens to that electron's gravitational field as it passes through that double slit?

Einstein's theory cannot answer it. We assume that there's a quantum theory of gravity out there, but we don't know whether that theory will also require a distance-scale cutoff or not. Heisenberg's original argument came about from trying (and failing) to renormalize Enrico Fermi's original theory of beta decay; the development of electroweak theory and the Standard Model removed the need for a discrete minimum length. Perhaps, with a quantum theory of gravity, we won't need a minimum length scale to renormalize any and all of our theories.

Today, Feynman diagrams are used in calculating every fundamental interaction spanning the strong,... [+] weak, and electromagnetic forces, including in high-energy and low-temperature/condensed conditions. The particles and fields are both quantized in quantum field theory, and beta decay proceeds just fine without a minimum length scale. Perhaps a quantum theory of gravity will remove the need for a minimum length scale in all quantum calculation.

Right now, there are three possibilities for the fundamental nature of space and time, as we look to the future but with today's understanding.

This illustration, of light passing through a dispersive prism and separating into clearly defined... [+] colors, is what happens when many medium-to-high energy photons strike a crystal. If we struck this prism with a single photon and space were discrete, the crystal could only possibly move a discrete, finite number of spatial steps.

Remarkably, there may be a few different tests we can perform to determine whether gravity is a quantum force and whether space itself is discrete or continuous. Three years before he died, Jacob Bekenstein proposed passing a single photon through a crystal, which would impart momentum and cause the crystal to move by a slight amount. By continuously tuning the photon energy, you could then detect whether the "steps" the crystal moved by were discrete or continuous, and whether there was a threshold below which the crystal wouldn't move at all.

Additionally, we've recently developed the ability to bring nanogram-scale objects into quantum superpositions of states, with the exact energy levels depending on the total gravitational self-energy. A sensitive enough experiment would be sensitive to whether gravity is quantized (or not), and when technology and experimental techniques make the requisite advances, we'll at last be able to probe the regime of quantum gravity.

The energy levels of a nanogram-scale disk of osmium, and how the effect of self-gravitation will... [+] (right) or won't (left) affect the specific values of those energy levels. The disk's wavefunction, and how it's affected by gravitation, may lead to the first experimental test of whether gravity is truly a quantum force.

In General Relativity, matter and energy tell space how to curve, while curved space tells matter and energy how to move. But in General Relativity, space and time are continuous and non-quantized. All the other forces are known to be quantum in nature, and require a quantum description to match reality. We assume and suspect that gravitation is fundamentally quantum, too, but we aren't sure. Furthermore, if gravity is ultimately quantum, we don't know whether space and time remain continuous, or whether they become fundamentally discrete.

Quantum doesn't necessarily mean that every property breaks down into an indivisible chunk. In conventional quantum field theory, spacetime is the stage upon which the various quanta act out the play of the Universe. At the core of it all should be a quantum theory of gravity. Until we can determine whether space and time are discrete, continuous, or unavoidably blurred, we cannot know our Universe's nature at a fundamental level.

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Even In A Quantum Universe, Space And Time Might Be Continuous, Not Discrete - Forbes

Ask Dr. Faizal 1 – The Classical and Quantum Understandings of the World – News Intervention

ByDr. Mir FaizalandScott Douglas Jacobsen

Dr. Mir Faizal is an Adjunct Professor in Physics and Astronomy at the University of Lethbridge and aVisiting Professor inIrving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciencesat the University of British Columbia Okanagan.

Here we start the cosmology educational series on the differences between the classical and the quantum worlds.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Wehave heard terms like classical physics and quantum physics. What do theseterms mean in simple worlds, and what is the difference between them?

Dr. Mir Faizal:We have evolved at a certain scale, and ourintuitiveunderstandingof world is also limited to that scale. Nowcommon sense is the expression of this intuitive understanding of the world in languageslike English or French. If this intuitiveunderstanding of the world isexpressed in mathematics, we naturally will obtain a mathematical descriptionof common sense. This mathematical descriptionof ourintuitiveunderstanding is called classical physics. However, there is nofundamental reason why such an description will hold at a different scale. Infact, now we known that the classical description does not hold at very smallscales, and the common sense seems also to break at such a scale. It is hard toaccuratelydescribe the world at such a small scaleusing languageslike Englishor French, as these languages have not been evolved todescribe the world at such a scale. However, it is still possibletomathematicallydescribe the world at such a small scale, and thismathematical description of small scale is called quantum physics. Even thoughit is not possible to describe the world at such a small scale in commonlanguage, it is possible to use analogies to understandphysics atsuch small scales.

Jacobsen: We see the worldaround us, and know how it behaves, and this forms a basis for our commonsense. Youmentionedthat our common sense breaks in quantum mechanical. Canyou give some examples of such a breaking of common sense in quantummechanics?

Faizal: Let us start by a simple example, to understandhow the common sense breaks in quantum mechanism. If there are two pathsbetween your home and your office, and you are travelling between them, you cantake any one of these two path at one time. However, you will infer that it isimpossible to take both these paths at the same time. Even if you are reallytiny, you cannot take two paths at the same time. The main reason for this is thatit is impossible for you to be present at two different places at the sametime. This seems to be something that you know from common sense. However, thisdescription of the world does not hold at much smaller scales. In quantummechanics, you go to your office from both those paths. In fact, you will takeall the possible paths between your home and office, and we have tomathematically sum these path to describe your behaviour of going between yourhome and office. This is actually how things are calculated for quantummechanical particles. This description of quantum mechanics (where a particletakes all possible path between two points) is called the Feynman path integralapproach.

Jacobsen: We have seenpeople commute between their home and office. In fact, as more simple system,we have seen a stone fall down, and it does not appear to take many pathsbetween two points. We have also never seen a particle present at two places atthe same time. How does the quantum mechanical fit with these observations?

Faizal:In quantum mechanics, as soon as someone makes ameasurement on some object, it instantaneously collapses to just one of thosepaths. Now it is possible to calculate the chance of an object to be collapseto a certain path in quantum mechanics. For large enough objects, this almostcoincides with the path that the object is expected to take based on classicalmechanics. However, as the objects gets smaller, the deviations between the twopaths becomes significant. It may be noted to calculate the position of anobject at any point in future, you need to know about two things. You need toknow where that object is present at a given time, and you need to know howfast it is travelling in a certain direction. If you know both these things,then you can know where that object will be present in future. However, in quantummechanics, it is impossible to measure both the position of a particle and howfast it is travelling, at the same time. Thus, in quantum mechanics it is notpossible to accurately measure the position of a particle in future. What wecan measure is the chance for a particle to be present at a certain point intime. So, in quantum mechanics causality is also only probabilistically true.As it is impossible to obtain certain knowledge of cause, the effects can beonly probabilistically predicted.

Jacobsen: It is possible toexactly predict the future positionof particle by improving ourtechnology and inventing better devices?

Faizal:Technological development cannot be usedto predict the future position of a particle beyond what is allowed by quantummechanics. This is because for such quantum system certain knowledge isactually not present in nature, and so we can only get probabilistic knowledgeof such system. This is the main difference between the classical and quantumdescription of the world. In classical mechanics, at least in principle, it ispossible to know the behaviour of a particle with certainty. In other world,the world is totally deterministic in classical mechanics. It might bedifficult to exactly calculate such a behaviour, but such a knowledge exists innature. In fact, even in classical mechanics, we usually use probability todescribe the world. This is the basis of statistical mechanics. However, such ause of probability is epistemological as certain knowledge exists atanontological level in classical physics. It is just very difficult forus to obtain such knowledge accurately for many systems. However, in quantummechanics there is anontological use probability as certain knowledge isabsent at anontological level from nature.

Jacobsen: Can you give asimple analogy of this difference to make it easy to understand?

Faizal:Let us again use a simple example tounderstand this difference. Someone is going to a coffee shop, and he usuallylikes to drink coffee but sometime orders tea. As it is a coffee shop they keeprunning out of tea. Now if it is known that he takes tea about twenty times in hundreddays, then you can calculate the chance of him drinking tea of coffee. Youcannot predict accurately what he will take on a given day, as such a knowledgeis not present in this system. However, knowing what he is more likely toorder, you can predict his behaviour over a large number of visits. So, for thenext ten days you can save two tea bag for him. This is an example of anontological absence of knowledge, and this is how probabilities work in quantummechanics. Now consider another example, in a group of ten people, two of themlike tea and the rest like coffee. Also they have a rule that they will notvisit the coffee shop more than once in ten days. Now if you do not bother toask them who like tea and who likes coffee, and just know how they behave in agroup, you can again predict the probability of them drinking tea. However, inthis case, the knowledge exists in form a hidden variable, which you did notbother to measure. This is an example of anepistemological absence ofknowledge, and this is how probabilities work in statistical mechanics.

Jacobsen: I can understandthat certain knowledge of the particle is not present, but where is theparticle actually present.

Faizal:Theparticle is present at every possible point it can occupy, till it is measured.However, when it is measured, it instantaneously collapses to a single point,and we can measure the chance of it collapsing to a certain point. This is animportant feature of quantum mechanics. In classical mechanics, two different contradictionscannotbe simultaneously existing. In quantum mechanics, all possibilitiessimultaneously exist, till they are measured. However, when they are measured,only one of them is instantaneously observed, and the system ceases to exist inthe other possibilities. This principle has been illustrated by the famousthought experiment of Schrodingers cat, in which a cat is killed by a quantummechanical process. There are two possibilities, as the cat can be dead andalive. Now if the system is not observed, then the cat can exist in a statebeing dead and alive at the same time. As soon as an observation is made, thesysteminstantaneously collapses to one of the two possibilities, so thecat is actually observed to be dead or alive. However, if no observation ismade, the cat is in a state of being dead and alive at the same time.

Jacobsen:Can these quantum effects be observed in our daily life?

Faizal: A important requirement of quantum mechanics isthat it should coincide with the classical physics at our scale, for all thesystem that have been described using classical mechanics. This means thesequantum effects become so small at our scale that they can be neglected, andcannot be observed. There are few phenomena like superconductivity andsuperfluiditywhere quantum effects can change the behaviourofcertain system at large scale. However, most quantum mechanical effect, whichbreak common sense, can be neglected at our scale, and the world at our scalecan described by classical mechanics. It is possible that there are somesystems, where other quantum effects become important even at large scale, and theirbehaviouris very different from thebehaviourpredictedfrom classical mechanics.

Jacobsen: Thank you for theopportunity and your time, Dr. Faizal.Faizal:My pleasure.

Photo by Billy HuynhonUnsplash


Assistant Editor, News Intervention,Human Rights Activist.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. Jacobsen works for science and human rights, especially womens and childrens rights. He considers the modern scientific and technological world the foundation for the provision of the basics of human life throughout the world and advancement of human rights as the universal movement among peoples everywhere. You can contact Scott via email, his website, or Twitter.

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Ask Dr. Faizal 1 - The Classical and Quantum Understandings of the World - News Intervention

Swinburne physicist wins Moyal Medal – Swinburne University of Technology

Swinburne researcher Professor Margaret Reid has become the first woman physicist to be awarded the Moyal Medal, recognising her outstanding contributions to the field of physics.

The prestigious science award is given annually and named after the late Australian mathematician and mathematical physicist Professor Jos Enrique Moyal.

His insight into the interaction between mathematics, physics and statistics has had far-reaching ramifications for a number of fields, including aeronautical engineering,electrical engineeringandstatistics.

It is such an honour to be awarded, says Professor Reid. It was the nicest professional email and invitation I have ever received! I was totally surprised.

It was especially wonderful given the nature of Moyals work and how it relates to her own, she says.

He was responsible for many of the results on phase space methods that I use routinely in my theoretical work in quantum physics. In preparing the talk I gave when receiving the award, it was good to be able to reflect on his work and its impact.

Professor Reid is currently a Professor of Physics at Swinburne and a fellow of the Australian Academy of Science.

She completed her PhD and postdoctoral studies at the University of Auckland and University of Waikato in New Zealand, working on theories for squeezed states of light. She has also conducted research at AT&T Bell Laboratories in the United States (USA), where she developed the atomic theory for the first experiment creating squeezed light.

Subsequently, she proposed how to create Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen entanglement using parametric down conversion, connecting squeezing and entanglement, which has helped with quantum noise reduction.

For contributions to the fields of quantum entanglement and nonlocality, she was made a fellow of the Optical Society of America and a fellow of the American Physical Society. She was recently awarded a visiting position at Harvard University and a JILA Fellowship at the University of Colorado in the USA.

In a ceremony at Sydneys Macquarie University, Professor Reid was presented with the Moyal Medal and delivered a lecture titled Einsteins elements of reality, entanglement and understanding the quantum to classical transition.

In the lecture, she discussed how Albert Einstein, along with Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen, had reservations about the interpretation of quantum mechanics. These reservations led to debate over the meaning of quantum mechanics, and gave the underpinning for the new field of quantum information.

Bringing these thoughts into the modern day, Professor Reid outlined discoveries in this field and the different interpretations of quantum mechanics over time.

To find out more about the award criteria and past winners, see: Moyal Medal.

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Swinburne physicist wins Moyal Medal - Swinburne University of Technology

Meet the scientist who thinks we all exist in multiple universes – The Next Web

Have you ever laid wide-awake in the late hours of the night wondering what your life would look like if you took that other job, moved countries, or ended up with someone else? While theres no definite answer and probably never will be the idea that theres multiple versions of you, living in various universes, isnt as make-believe as you might think.

According to Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology and author of Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime, the theory of Many Worlds Interpretation suggests every important event has multiple possible outcomes and splits the world into alternate realities.

This mind-bending idea originally came from Hugh Everett, a graduate student who wrote just one paper in the 1950s. Everetts theory describes the universe as a changing set of numbers, known as the wave function. According to Many Worlds, the universe continually splits into new branches, to produce multiple versions of ourselves. Carroll argues that, so far, this interpretation is the simplest possible explanation of quantum mechanics.

The ideas we have had for at least 25 years, before Everett came along, was this puzzle in quantum mechanics that theres one set of rules of how wave functions behave when youre not looking at them and theres another set of rules for how they behave when they get measured, Carroll told TNW.

According to Live Science, quantum mechanics is the body of scientific laws that describe the bizarre behavior of photons, electrons, and any other particles that make up the universe. At the scale of atoms and electrons, many of the equations of classical mechanics, which describe how things move at everyday sizes and speeds, cease to be useful.

A lot of people, including Everett, thought this didnt sound right, he said you are quantum mechanical also because youre made of atoms and particles, and theres only one wave function so youre really part of this function.

According to Carroll, this theory raises philosophical problems in regards to how you treat and treat the copies of you other branches because theyre originated from us. They share the same memories as you and they have every right to be thought of as you, but theyre separate people in a different universe. The number of universal branches increases over time, and the older you get, the more versions of you there are.

To better understand this, Carroll dumbs it down to being much like a Star Trek teleporter that malfunctions and makes two copies of you theyre both real, but theyre gonna live different lives and theres nothing you can do about it.

Carroll argues that your identity over time is like a branching tree where theres many possibilities for the future. But once one version of you has branched, theres no way to communicate with them. But theyre definitely there and theyre as real as you are according to this interpretation.

According to Carroll, he doesnt think a new self is formed by every single tiny decision you make or dont make in life.You didnt decide to have a pizza or hamburger one evening and in one branch, you end up having pizza, and the other branches you had a hamburger its only when you measure quantum mechanical systems that new worlds are created.

Like many theorists, Roger Penrose, a mathematical physicist and philosopher of science, dismisses the idea of Many Worlds as physics reduced to absurdity, as reported by Mach. However, Stephen Hawking, who was a theoretical physicist and cosmologist, believed this theory was self-evidently true.

Some scientists have rejected Everetts original explanation. But even now, decades later, no one has found any flaws in the equation itself. Because of this, scientists like Carroll have agreed that Many Worlds is the only logical way to understand quantum mechanics.

If we take this theory seriously, we can explain unlikely events like quantum tunneling, where we know that one particle can tunnel through another particle, this is what happens when a radioactive nucleus decays, Carroll added. If you follow through that same logic, I could take a coffee cup and put it on the table and theres a chance it will tunnel right through and just hit the floor. This chance is incredibly, enormously, and hilariously small, but if you believe in Many World, theres a world in which it happened.

According to Everetts theory, its possible that an infinite number of you lives somewhere in existence. This bizarre theory is enough to make you question the whole meaning of life, and rethink your beliefs of fate and destiny.

To make sure you rest easy at night, worrying about all your life choices and potential, Carroll assured The universe knows whats going to happen and well never know until we actually get there and see whats going on, and theres nothing you can do about it.

Read next: TRX Q3 2019: Justin Sun's canceled Warren Buffett lunch did its price no favors

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Meet the scientist who thinks we all exist in multiple universes - The Next Web

We May Finally Understand the Moments Before the Big Bang – Livescience.com

There's a hole in the story of how our universe came to be. First, the universe inflated rapidly, like a balloon. Then, everything went boom.

But how those two periods are connected has eluded physicists. Now, a new study suggests a way to link the two epochs.

In the first period, the universe grew from an almost infinitely small point to nearly an octillion (that's a 1 followed by 27 zeros) times that in size in less than a trillionth of a second. This inflation period was followed by a more gradual, but violent, period of expansion we know as the Big Bang. During the Big Bang, an incredibly hot fireball of fundamental particles such as protons, neutrons and electrons expanded and cooled to form the atoms, stars and galaxies we see today.

The Big Bang theory, which describes cosmic inflation, remains the most widely supported explanation of how our universe began, yet scientists are still perplexed by how these wholly different periods of expansion are connected. To solve this cosmic conundrum, a team of researchers at Kenyon College, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Netherlands' Leiden University simulated the critical transition between cosmic inflation and the Big Bang a period they call "reheating."

Related: From Big Bang to Present: Snapshots of Our Universe Through Time

"The post-inflation reheating period sets up the conditions for the Big Bang and, in some sense, puts the 'bang' in the Big Bang," David Kaiser, a professor of physics at MIT, said in a statement. "It's this bridge period where all hell breaks loose and matter behaves in anything but a simple way."

When the universe expanded in a flash of a second during cosmic inflation, all the existing matter was spread out, leaving the universe a cold and empty place, devoid of the hot soup of particles needed to ignite the Big Bang. During the reheating period, the energy propelling inflation is believed to decay into particles, said Rachel Nguyen, a doctoral student in physics at the University of Illinois and lead author of the study.

"Once those particles are produced, they bounce around and knock into each other, transferring momentum and energy," Nguyen told Live Science. "And that's what thermalizes and reheats the universe to set the initial conditions for the Big Bang."

In their model, Nguyen and her colleagues simulated the behavior of exotic forms of matter called inflatons. Scientists think these hypothetical particles, similar in nature to the Higgs boson, created the energy field that drove cosmic inflation. Their model showed that, under the right conditions, the energy of the inflatons could be redistributed efficiently to create the diversity of particles needed to reheat the universe. They published their results Oct. 24 in the journal Physical Review Letters.

A crucible for high-energy physics

"When we're studying the early universe, what we're really doing is a particle experiment at very, very high temperatures," said Tom Giblin, an associate professor of physics at Kenyon College in Ohio and co-author of the study. "The transition from the cold inflationary period to the hot period is one that should hold some key evidence as to what particles really exist at these extremely high energies."

One fundamental question that plagues physicists is how gravity behaves at the extreme energies present during inflation. In Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity, all matter is believed to be affected by gravity in the same way, where the strength of gravity is constant regardless of a particle's energy. However, because of the strange world of quantum mechanics, scientists think that, at very high energies, matter responds to gravity differently.

The team incorporated this assumption in their model by tweaking how strongly the particles interacted with gravity. They discovered that the more they increased the strength of gravity, the more efficiently the inflatons transferred energy to produce the zoo of hot matter particles found during the Big Bang.

Now, they need to find evidence to buttress their model somewhere in the universe.

"The universe holds so many secrets encoded in very complicated ways," Giblin told Live Science. "It's our job to learn about the nature of reality by coming up with a decoding device a way to extract information from the universe. We use simulations to make predictions about what the universe should look like so that we can actually start decoding it. This reheating period should leave an imprint somewhere in the universe. We just need to find it."

But finding that imprint could be tricky. Our earliest glimpse of the universe is a bubble of radiation left over from a few hundred thousand years after the Big Bang, called the cosmic microwave background (CMB). Yet the CMB only hints at the state of the universe during those first critical seconds of birth. Physicists like Giblin hope future observations of gravitational waves will provide the final clues.

Originally published on Live Science.

For the more space news, subscribe to our sister publication "All About Space" magazine.

(Image credit: Future)

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We May Finally Understand the Moments Before the Big Bang - Livescience.com

Using Quantum Physics to Create Your Life-Suzanne Adams on the Shamangelic Healing Podcast – PR Web

Suzanne Adams

SEDONA, Ariz. (PRWEB) November 07, 2019

When Shamangelic Healing founder, Anahata Ananda and Suzanne Adams, CEO and co-founder of Ignite and Expand got together on the Shamangelic Healing Podcast to discuss techniques using quantum physics to change peoples lives, the number of downloads skyrocketed. With a trending focus on learning ways to use bio-hacking to enhance a persons body, productivity shortcuts to upgrade lifestyle, meditation to balance the work/personal-life dynamic and living life with purpose, Suzanne shares her techniques shes discovered while working from the quantum level. Her basis is firmly grounded in the foundation that everything is vibrating energy. From that premise, she lays out a process of attracting situations and people which are beneficial in assisting with moving toward goals more quickly.

Adams explains the underlying principles of The Law of Attraction and how emotional intensity can amplify manifestation and abundance. She states one of the most key elements to attract or repel that which is desired, is being aware of the current vibration one is in at any given time. On the smallest level, cells are vibrating at various frequencies, emitting messages out to their immediate world. From larger scale perspective, the cumulative effect of the energy being given off will begin to affect the vibration of the person as a whole. Adams explains that by understanding the value of stretching limiting beliefs and habits, one can begin to create vibrations which result in tangible changes in life. Anahata has implemented this knowledge into her online Quantum Leap Program which people can use to completely change the course of their lives over 12 months.

Anahata and Adams both point out the importance of keeping vibrations at the highest, most productive, healthy levels possible. An immediate influence are the interactions with people we are around the most. Select your circle of influence wisely and give yourself permission to grow out of unhealthy relationships or toxic environments, states Adams. Clear, conscious communication and boundary setting is a must, Anahata adds. Lowered vibrations due to stress, negative people or pessimistic thoughts can be a big influence. Both women describe the traps of living an inauthentic life to please others and how important it is to dream big. Adams outlines how to change the outcome resulting from blocks to successful manifestation and prosperity. Anahata assists people all over the world by providing the tools for maintaining healthy, conscious relationships through one of her online courses.

Suzanne Adams is on a mission to help people reach their highest level of potential. She is a thought leader in the field of spirituality, personal development, and heart-centered entrepreneurship. Adams is a bestselling author and transformational coach and TEDx presenter helping heart-centered entrepreneurs create and scale soulful businesses.

Anahata blends the compassion and tenderness of an Angel and the wisdom and strength of a Shaman to guide profound journeys of core healing and spiritual awakening. As a Certified High-Performance Coach, Shamanic Healer and Soul Guide, Anahata has guided thousands of individuals across the globe through core life shifts, helping them to turn their life around and create the life of their dreams. She is the host of the internationally acclaimed Shamangelic Healing Podcast which is designed as a platform for sharing deep authentic conversations about REAL LIFE issues. She offers deep healing through in-person sessions in Sedona, Arizona and supportive online courses for self-paced, at home learning. https://shamangelichealing.com

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Using Quantum Physics to Create Your Life-Suzanne Adams on the Shamangelic Healing Podcast - PR Web

Quantum Paradox Experiment Puts Einstein to the Test May Lead to More Accurate Clocks and Sensors – SciTechDaily

A clock moving in superposition of different speeds would measure a superposition of different elapsing times in a quantum version of the famous twin paradox of special relativity. Credit: Magdalena Zych

More accurate clocks and sensors may result from a recently proposed experiment, linking an Einstein-devised paradox to quantum mechanics.

University of Queensland physicist Dr. Magdalena Zych said the international collaboration aimed to test Einsteins twin paradox using quantum particles in a superposition state.

The twin paradox is one of the most counterintuitive predictions of relativity theory, Dr. Zych said. It says that time can pass at different speeds for people at different distances to an enormous mass or traveling with different velocities.

For example, relative to a reference clock far from any massive object, a clock closer to a mass or moving at high speed will tick slower. This creates a twin paradox, where one of a pair of twins departs on a fast-speed journey while the other stays behind. When the twins reunite, the traveling twin would be much younger, as different amounts of time have passed for each of them.

Its a mind-blowing effect featured in popular movies like Interstellar but its also been verified by real world experiments, and is even taken into consideration in order for everyday GPS technology to work.

The team included researchers from the University of Ulm and Leibniz University Hannover and found how one could use advanced laser technology to realize a quantum version of Einsteins twin paradox.

In the quantum version, rather than twins there will be only one particle traveling in a quantum superposition.

A quantum superposition means the particle is in two locations at the same time, in each of them with some probability, and yet this is different to placing the particle in one or the other location randomly, Dr. Zych said.

Its another way for an object to exist, only allowed by the laws of quantum physics.

The idea is to put one particle in superposition on two trajectories with different speeds, and see if a different amount of time passes for each of them, as in the twin paradox. If our understanding of quantum theory and relativity is right, when the superposed trajectories meet, the quantum traveler will be in superposition of being older and younger than itself.

This would leave an unmistakable signature in the results of the experiment, and thats what we hope will be found when the experiment is realized in the future.

It could lead to advanced technologies that will allow physicists to build more precise sensors and clocks potentially, a key part of future navigation systems, autonomous vehicles and earthquake early-warning networks.

The experiment itself will also answer some open questions in modern physics.

A key example is, can time display quantum behavior or is it fundamentally classical? Dr. Zych said. This question is likely crucial for the holy grail of theoretical physics: finding a joint theory of quantum and gravitational phenomena. Were looking forward to helping answer this question, and tackling many more.

For more on this study, read Physicists Put Einstein to the Test With a Quantum-Mechanical Twin Paradox.

Reference: Interference of clocks: A quantum twin paradox by Sina Loriani, Alexander Friedrich, Christian Ufrecht, Fabio Di Pumpo, Stephan Kleinert, Sven Abend, Naceur Gaaloul, Christian Meiners, Christian Schubert, Dorothee Tell, tienne Wodey, Magdalena Zych, Wolfgang Ertmer, Albert Roura, Dennis Schlippert, Wolfgang P. Schleich, Ernst M. Rasel and Enno Giese, 4 October 2019, Science Advances.DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax8966

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Quantum Paradox Experiment Puts Einstein to the Test May Lead to More Accurate Clocks and Sensors - SciTechDaily

A Newly Seen Quantum Symmetry Can Lead To Insights To The Workings Of The Universe – Forbes

If you work up from first principles, much of what we understand about the Universe and how it works is through symmetries. If a transformation is symmetric, the properties of a system can be retained if the system is transformed. A research team from the University of Washington has shown for one of the first times a new type of symmetry in quantum systems. This experiment may lead to further advancements in physics, especially in the realm of quantum computing.

There are various ways that a system can be symmetric. P, or parity, symmetry means that the orientation can be swapped. Such a symmetry is what we see in our bodies. Our right hand is a mirror image of our left hand. C, or charge, symmetry means that each particle is swapped with its own anti-particle, effectively changing its charge. Finally, T, or time, symmetry is time, meaning that the system follows the same laws of physics whether the system runs forwards or backwards in time.

Your hands illustrate P, or parity symmetry - one hand is the mirror image of the other.

Understanding symmetries within the Universe allows us to construct various laws of physics, from the conservation of energy or the conservation of momentum.

Symmetries are often broken, especially when looking at one of these properties at a time. However, the Standard Model predicts that together, these symmetries should hold. This is called CPT symmetry.

The research, from the lab of Dr. Kater Murch at Washington University in St. Louis and led by Dr. Mahdi Naghiloo shows for one of the first times PT (or parity-time) symmetry being held in a quantum system.

The group used a qubit - or a superconducting circuit - to make a three-state quantum system. This system has three excited states. The first typically decays to the ground state, while the other two are coupled. The team was able to select only instances where the qubit did not decay into the ground state which led to the effective PT symmetry.

Exploration of PT symmetry - both when it holds and when it is broken - can lead to deeper understandings of the world of quantum physics.

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A Newly Seen Quantum Symmetry Can Lead To Insights To The Workings Of The Universe - Forbes

UWMadison physicist awarded Packard Fellowship – University of Wisconsin-Madison

Shimon Kolkowitz, a University of WisconsinMadison assistant professor of physics, has been selected as one of 22 members of the 2019 class of Packard Fellows for Science and Engineering.

The fellowship, awarded to early-career scientists from across the U.S., provides $875,000 of funding over five years. Kolkowitz will use the funds to develop his research program in ultra-precise atomic clocks, which he will use to investigate such fundamental aspects of physics as the relationship between quantum mechanics and gravity and the nature of dark matter.

Shimon Kolkowitz is the third UWMadison physics professor to be named a Packard Fellow in the 32 years of the award. Photo: Steven Burrows / JILA

These clocks are the most precise instruments that humankind has ever built, Kolkowitz says. Im interested in asking, How does that precision give us access to new physics?

One of the first research areas Kolkowitz plans to explore is a new test of Einsteins general theory of relativity. When first developing the theory, Einstein suggested that people in a closed elevator could not tell the difference between the elevator on Earth under the influence of gravity and the elevator accelerating through space in zero gravity.

Thats called the Einstein equivalence principle, and it is at the heart of general relativity. The predictions of general relativity have been tested in a number of different ways and have always been confirmed, Kolkowitz explains. But the basic question of, Can I tell the difference between acceleration and gravity? has not been directly tested. And I think it will be a lot of fun and really cool to directly realize that thought experiment in my lab.

Atomic clocks keep time by measuring the differences between energy levels of the electrons in atoms. The clocks timekeeping precision is affected by many factors, such as the surrounding environment, the temperature of the atoms, and the type of atom used. The atomic clocks constructed in Kolkowitzs lab are made of strontium atoms that have both been gathered into a small sphere and cooled to just above absolute zero the coldest temperature that can exist by lasers.

Kolkowitzs ultra-precise atomic clock, an ultra-high vacuum containing strontium atoms that are trapped and cooled to 1/1000th of a degree above absolute zero by lasers, will test Einsteins general theory of relativity. Photo: Shimon Kolkowitz

The general theory of relativity says that gravity affects the passage of time, so two atomic clocks at different heights, which experience slight differences in the strength of gravity, will tick at different rates. Currently, that time difference has been observed between two atomic clocks that are about a foot apart in height. A unique feature of Kolkowitzs clock design is that it allows two clocks to exist in the same environment. As a result, in the first set of experiments he plans to conduct, he expects they will be able to measure differences in time due to gravity at centimeter or millimeter height differences.

Next, he wants to measure differences in time between two accelerating clocks that are separated by the same distance this time horizontally instead of vertically to take the effects of gravity out of the equation.

According to the equivalence principle, we should see the same disagreement between the two clocks from the acceleration as from gravity, Kolkowitz says. And thats an effect that has never been observed before.

The Packard Fellowship gives me the freedom to explore research avenues that might not have obvious or immediate applications, but that can inspire the imagination, and that will hopefully lead in unexpected directions.

Shimon Kolkowitz

Kolkowitz admits he is not entirely sure what the implications of these experiments may be. One possibility he is exploring with theoretical physics colleagues is whether related experiments with these quantum-physics-based clocks can complement or improve upon high energy particle physics experiments in the search for new physics, such as the nature of dark matter or dark energy.

These experiments are kind of out there, Kolkowitz says. The Packard Fellowship gives me the freedom to explore research avenues that might not have obvious or immediate applications, but that can inspire the imagination, and that will hopefully lead in unexpected directions.

Professor Kolkowitzs innovative research onprecision metrology with quantum systems is original and highly relevant for quantum information science, says Sridhara Dasu, professor and chair of the physics department at UWMadison. We look forward to his continued success in establishing a flourishing research program in the department.

Kolkowitz is the third UWMadison physics professor to be named a Packard Fellow in the 32 years of the award, after Thad Walker (1992) and Cary Forest (1998). Previously named Packard Fellows include Kolkowitzs former advisor as well as two Nobel laureates.

I feel that Im following in the footsteps of some very impressive people, and thats a real honor for me, Kolkowitz says.

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UWMadison physicist awarded Packard Fellowship - University of Wisconsin-Madison

University’s new supercomputer, Traverse, to aid plasma physics and fusion research – The Daily Princetonian

Photo Courtesy of Denise Applewhite / Office of Communications

The Universitys High-Performance Computing Research Center (HPCRC) has acquired a new supercomputer, named Traverse, which will aid research at the Universitys Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), as well as other University programs.

The addition joins six other computing clusters: Tiger, Dell, and Perseus, which are the largest and reserved primarily for faculty, as well as Nobel, Adroit, and Tigressdata, which are available to students. All the clusters are housed in a building on the Forrestal campus, about three miles from the main campus.

Supercomputers require high amounts of energy, and HPCRC typically uses 1.8 megawatts of electricity and is equipped with backup generators. The clusters can also overheat, which requires ventilating them with cooled air. The facility is efficient enough to have earned a LEED Gold rating.

Thanos Panagiotopoulos, the chair of the chemical and biological engineering department, said that Traverse will allow Princetons Chemistry in Solution and at Interfaces (CSI) lab to model the interactions of a few hundred molecules at a time.

We do problems involving very large-scale calculations that connect quantum mechanics with the collective properties of water and aqueous solutions, Panagiotopoulos said. The simulations usually last only on the order of a few picoseconds but can help CSI understand the atomistic dynamics of various materials.

Roberto Car, director of CSI and the Ralph W. *31 Dornte Professor in Chemistry at the University, said that his group of researchers now uses a new, more efficient mathematical construction, called a deep neural network, which uses machine learning to compute the classical mechanics forces in any number of arrangements that share the same statistical probability. Researchers derive the interaction potentials from density functional theory, which considers the quantum mechanics of the atoms in their ground states.

Having access to that kind of machine at Princeton will allow us to do this work on our code and experiment with the capabilities offered by this architecture, Car said.

Traverse has a similar architectural structure to Summit, the most powerful supercomputer in the world, housed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Traverse is a 1.4-petaflop system, making it capable of 1.4 million billion floating-point calculations per second. It is on the TOP500 list, a ranking of the 500 most powerful supercomputers based on standard tests.

Panagiotopoulos and Car noted that Traverse will soon be overtaken by more powerful supercomputers. Car predicted that exascale systems, which would be capable of a billion billion calculations per second and function 1,000 times faster than petascale ones, will be built in the next few years. He noted that PPPL will likely be able to use technology developed at Oak Ridge.

What sets Traverse apart from the previous HPCRC clusters is its architecture described by Car as a hybrid architecture that consists of CPU [central processing unit] and GPUs [graphics processing units]. The clusters were built by IBM, and the GPUs were supplied by Nvidia, which sells GPUs for many personal computers and gaming systems.

Car said the first exascale supercomputers will share a similar architecture to Traverse, meaning that the work required to adapt the researchers current algorithms to Traverse will remain useful.

Traverse will help PPPL model the movement of plasma in its tokamak NSTX-U, the largest of its kind in the world, to better understand how to control the plasma on a millisecond timescale. PPPL was founded in 1951 and has been working, among other projects, to create a viable fusion reactor potentially capable of generating virtually unlimited energy.

Traverse was financed by the University, and it will be used by graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and faculty at the University, as well as PPPL, which is managed by the Department of Energy.

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University's new supercomputer, Traverse, to aid plasma physics and fusion research - The Daily Princetonian

Quantum weirdness could allow a person-sized wormhole to last forever – New Scientist News

By Chelsea Whyte


Fancy a trip down a wormhole? We have never been quite sure whether these portals through space-time could exist long enough for anything to travel through. Now calculations suggest they could stick around for a while perhaps as long as the universe itself.

Wormholes are essentially two black holes connected together. Two types could theoretically exist. A non-traversable wormhole is like a room with two doors that can only be used from the outside the doors are black holes through which things could enter, but never escape. These are not very interesting, as any astronaut who is brave enough to venture in wont be able to make it back to tell the story, says Diandian Wang at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Traversable wormholes are also possible, but up until now we didnt know whether they could exist for long enough for anything to pass through in practice.


For such a wormhole to form, space-time needs to change shape from being like a flat sheet to having holes in it. In classical physics, this cant happen. But the rules of quantum mechanics seem to allow for space-time to spontaneously change shape, although this is likely to only be for very short periods.

Wang has now worked on a scenario involving string theory, in which the fundamental ingredient of reality are tiny strings. If one of these strings breaks, it can create a traversable wormhole. It contains energy, and when it breaks, that energy becomes two black holes at each end of the string, says Wang.

Researchers had shown this was a possibility before, but it seemed the energy would force the two black holes to zoom apart from each other, snapping the wormhole.

Now, Wang and his team have calculated that the curvature of space-time could counteract this acceleration, keeping the black holes static and allowing the throat of the wormhole to remain open.This scenario is extremely unlikely, and becomes even more unlikely the longer the wormhole is and the larger the two black holes are.

This means that a wormhole big enough for a person to travel through is much less likely than one through which light could be sent. Thanks to quantum mechanics, though, the probability of either happening isnt zero.

Wangs team also calculated that, once a traversable wormhole exists, it could remain stable for at least as long as the universe has existed and maybe forever.

Our previous work showed that wormholes can be traversable, says Aron Wall at the University of Cambridge. But we did not describe a process to create the wormhole. He says Wangs calculations show how one could be created from scratch.

Wall points out, however, that Wangs wormholes couldnt be used to time travel or move faster than the speed of light. Were you to travel through one, he says, you would still be confined to moving slower than the speed of light.

Journal reference: Classical and Quantum Gravity, DOI: 10.1088/1361-6382/ab436f

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Quantum weirdness could allow a person-sized wormhole to last forever - New Scientist News

Has human evolution reached its peak for cognitive understanding? – The Independent

Despite huge advances in science over the past century, our understanding of nature is still far from complete. Not only have scientists failed to find the holy grail of physics unifying the very large (general relativity) with the very small (quantum mechanics) they still dont know what the vast majority of the universe is made up of. The sought-after theory of everything continues to elude us. And there are other outstanding puzzles, too, such as how consciousness arises from mere matter.

Will science ever be able to provide all the answers? Human brains are the product of blind and unguided evolution. They were designed to solve practical problems impinging on our survival and reproductionnot to unravel the fabric of the universe. This realisation has led some philosophers to embrace a curious form of pessimism, arguing thatthere are bound to be things we will never understand. Human science will therefore one day hit a hard limit and may already have done so.

Some questions may be doomed to remain what the American linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky called mysteries. If you think that humans alone have unlimited cognitive powers setting us apart from all other animals you have not fully digested Darwins insight that Homo sapiens is very much part of the natural world.

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But does this argument really hold up? Consider that human brains did not evolve to discover their own origins either. And yet somehow we managed to do just that. Perhaps the pessimists are missing something.

Mysterian arguments

Mysterian thinkers give a prominent role to biological arguments and analogies. In his 1983 landmark bookThe Modularity of Mind,the late philosopher Jerry Fodor claimed that there are bound to be thoughts that we are unequipped to think.

Similarly, philosopher Colin McGinn has argued in a series of books and articles that all minds suffer from cognitive closure with respect to certain problems. Just as dogs or cats will never understand prime numbers, human brains must be closed off from some of the worlds wonders. McGinn suspects that the reason why philosophical conundrums such as the mind-body problem how physical processes in our brain give rise to consciousness prove to be intractable is that their true solutions are simply inaccessible to the human mind.

If McGinn is right that our brains are simply not equipped to solve certain problems, there is no point in even trying, as they will continue to baffle and bewilder us. McGinn himself is convinced that there is, in fact, a perfectly natural solution to the mind-body problem, but that human brains will never find it.

Even the psychologist Steven Pinker, someone who is often accused of scientific hubris himself, is sympathetic to the argument of the mysterians. If our ancestors had no need to understand the wider cosmos in order to spread their genes, he argues, why would natural selection have given us the brainpower to do so?

Mind-boggling theories

Mysterians typically present the question of cognitive limits in stark, black-or-white terms: either we can solve a problem, or it will forever defy us. Either we have cognitive access or we suffer from closure. At some point, human inquiry will suddenly slam into a metaphorical brick wall, after which we will be forever condemned to stare in blank incomprehension.

Another possibility, however, which mysterians often overlook, is one of slowly diminishing returns. Reaching the limits of inquiry might feel less like hitting a wall than getting bogged down in a quagmire. We keep slowing down, even as we exert more and more effort, and yet there is no discrete point beyond which any further progress at all becomes impossible.

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There is another ambiguity in the thesis of the mysterians, which my colleague Michael Vlerick and I have pointed out in an academic paper. Are the mysterians claiming that we will never find the true scientific theory of some aspect of reality, or alternatively, that we may well find this theory but will never truly comprehend it?

In the science fiction series The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy, an alien civilisation builds a massive supercomputer to calculate the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything. When the computer finally announces that the answer is 42, no one has a clue what this means (in fact, they go on to construct an even bigger supercomputer to figure out precisely this).

Is a question still a mystery if you have arrived at the correct answer, but you have no idea what it means or cannot wrap your head around it? Mysterians often conflate those two possibilities.

In some places, McGinn suggests that the mindbody problem is inaccessible to human science, presumably meaning that we will never find the true scientific theory describing the mindbody nexus. At other moments, however, he writes that the problem will always remain numbingly difficult to make sense of for human beings, and that the head spins in theoretical disarray when we try to think about it.

This suggests that we may well arrive at the true scientific theorybut it will have a 42-like quality to it. But, then again, some people would argue that this is already true of a theory like quantum mechanics. Even the quantum physicist Richard Feynman admitted, I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.

Would the mysterians say that we humans are cognitively closed to the quantum world? According to quantum mechanics, particles can be in two places at onceor randomly pop out of empty space. While this is extremely hard to make sense of, quantum theory leads to incredibly accurate predictions. The phenomena of quantum weirdness has been confirmed by several experimental tests, and scientists are now also creating applications based on the theory.

Mysterians also tend to forget how mind-boggling some earlier scientific theories and concepts were when initially proposed. Nothing in our cognitive make-up prepared us for relativity theory, evolutionary biology or heliocentrism.

As the philosopher Robert McCauley writes: When first advanced, the suggestions that the Earth moves, that microscopic organisms can kill human beings, and that solid objects are mostly empty space were no less contrary to intuition and common sense than the most counterintuitive consequences of quantum mechanics have proved for us in the 20th century.McCauleys astute observation provides reason for optimismnot pessimism.

Mind extensions

But can our puny brains really answer all conceivable questions and understand all problems? This depends on whether we are talking about bare, unaided brain poweror not. Theres a lot of things you cant do with your naked brain. But Homo sapiens is a tool-making species, and this includes a range of cognitive tools.

For example, our unaided sense organs cannot detect UVlight, ultrasound waves, X-rays or gravitational waves. But if youre equipped with some fancy technology you can detect all those things. To overcome our perceptual limitations, scientists have developed a suite of tools and techniques: microscopes, X-ray film, Geiger counters, radio satellites detectors and so forth.

All these devices extend the reach of our minds by translating physical processes into some format that our sense organs can digest. So are we perceptually closed to UV light? In one sense, yes. But not if you take into account all our technological equipment and measuring devices.

Through Einsteins Theory of Relativity we can understand that gravity causes shifts in the fabric of space-time (iStock)

In a similar way, we use physical objects (such as paper and pencil) to vastly increase the memory capacity of our naked brains. According to the British philosopher Andy Clark, our minds quite literally extend beyond our skins and skulls, in the form of notebooks, computers screens, maps and file drawers.

Mathematics is another fantastic mind-extension technology, which enables us to represent concepts that we couldnt think of with our bare brains. For instance, no scientist could hope to form a mental representation of all the complex interlocking processes that make up our climate system. Thats exactly why we have constructed mathematical models and computers to do the heavy lifting for us.

Cumulative knowledge

Most importantly, we can extend our own minds to those of our fellow human beings. What makes our species unique is that we are capable of culture, in particular cumulative cultural knowledge. A population of human brains is much smarter than any individual brain in isolation.

And the collaborative enterprise par excellence is science. It goes without saying that a single scientist would not be capable of unravelling the mysteries of the cosmos on her own. But collectively, they do. As Isaac Newton wrote, he could see further by standing on the shoulders of giants. By collaborating with their peers, scientists can extend the scope of their understanding, achieving much more than any of them would be capable of individually.

Today, fewer and fewer people understand what is going on at the cutting edge of theoretical physics even physicists. The unification of quantum mechanics and relativity theory will undoubtedly be exceptionally daunting, or else scientists would have nailed it long ago already.

The same is true for our understanding of how the human brain gives rise to consciousness, meaning and intentionality. But is there any good reason to suppose that these problems will forever remain out of reach? Or that our sense of bafflement when thinking of them will never diminish?

It was only through Einsteins breakthrough that other scientists could make further progress in the field of quantum mechanics (Getty)

In a public debate I moderated a few years ago, the philosopher Daniel Dennett pointed out a very simple objection to the mysterians analogies with the minds of other animals: other animals cannot even understand the questions. Not only will a dog never figure out if theres a largest prime, but it will never even understand the question. By contrast, human beings can pose questions to each other and to themselves, reflect on these questions, and in doing so come up with ever better and more refined versions.

Mysterians are inviting us to imagine the existence of a class of questions that are themselves perfectly comprehensible to humansbut the answers to which will forever remain out of reach. Is this notion really plausible (or even coherent)?

Alien anthropologists

To see how these arguments come together, lets do a thought experiment. Imagine that some extraterrestrial anthropologists had visited our planet around 40,000 years ago to prepare a scientific report about the cognitive potential of our species. Would this strange, naked ape ever find out about the structure of its solar system, the curvature of space-time or even its own evolutionary origins?

At that moment in time, when our ancestors were living in small bands of hunter-gatherers, such an outcome may have seemed quite unlikely. Although humans possessed quite extensive knowledge about the animals and plants in their immediate environment, and knew enough about the physics of everyday objects to know their way around and come up with some clever tools, there was nothing resembling scientific activity.

There was no writing, no mathematics, no artificial devices for extending the range of our sense organs. As a consequence, almost all of the beliefs held by these peopleabout the broader structure of the world were completely wrong. Human beings didnt have a clue about the true causes of natural disaster, disease, heavenly bodies, the turn of the seasons or almost any other natural phenomenon.

Alien anthropologists might overlook the fact that our cognitive abilities have superseded our physical ones (iStock)

Our extraterrestrial anthropologist might have reported the following:

Evolution has equipped this upright, walking ape with primitive sense-organs to pick up some information that is locally relevant to them, such as vibrations in the air (caused by nearby objects and persons) and electromagnetic waves within the 400-700 nanometer range, as well as certain larger molecules dispersed in their atmosphere.

However, these creatures are completely oblivious to anything that falls outside their narrow perceptual range. Moreover, they cant even see most of the single-cell life forms in their own environmentbecause these are simply too small for their eyes to detect. Likewise, their brains have evolved to think about the behaviour of medium-sized objects (mostly solid) under conditions of low gravity.

None of these earthlings has ever escaped the gravitational field of their planet to experience weightlessness, or been artificially accelerated so as to experience stronger gravitational forces. They cant even conceive of space-time curvature, since evolution has hard-wired zero-curvature geometry of space into their puny brains.

In conclusion, were sorry to report that most of the cosmos is simply beyond their ken.

But those extraterrestrials would have been dead wrong. Biologically, we are no different than we were 40,000 years ago but now we know about bacteria and viruses, DNA and molecules, supernovas and black holes, the full range of the electromagnetic spectrum and a wide array of other strange things.

We also know about non-Euclidean geometry and space-time curvature, courtesy of Einsteins general theory of relativity. Our minds have reached out to objects millions of light years away from our planet, and also to extremely tiny objects far below the perceptual limits of our sense organs. By using various tricks and tools, humans have vastly extended their grasp on the world.

The verdict: biology is not destiny

The thought experiment above should be a counsel against pessimism about human knowledge. Who knows what other mind-extending devices we will hit upon to overcome our biological limitations? Biology is not destiny. If you look at what we have already accomplished in the span of a few centuries, any rash pronouncements about cognitive closure seem highly premature.

Mysterians often pay lip service to the values of humility and modestybut, on closer examination, their position is far less restrained than it appears. Take McGinns confident pronouncement that the mindbody problem is an ultimate mystery that we will never unravel. In making such a claim, McGinn assumes knowledge of three things: the nature of the mindbody problem itself, the structure of the human mind, and the reason why never the twain shall meet. But McGinn offers only a superficial overview of the science of human cognitionand pays little or no attention to the various devices for mind extension.

I think its time to turn the tables on the mysterians. If you claim that some problems will forever elude human understanding, you have to show in some detail why no possible combination of mind-extension devices will bring us any closer to a solution. That is a taller order than most mysterians have acknowledged.

Moreover, by spelling out exactly why some problems will remain mysterious, mysterians risk being hoisted by their own petard. As Dennett wrote in his latest book: As soon as you frame a question that you claim we will never be able to answer, you set in motion the very process that might well prove you wrong: you raise a topic of investigation.

In one of his infamous memorandum notes on Iraq, former US secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeldmakes a distinction between two forms of ignorance: the known unknowns and unknown unknowns. In the first category belong things that we know we dont know. We can frame the right questions but we havent found the answers yet. And then there are the things that we dont know we dont know. For these unknown unknownswe cant even frame the questions yet.

It is quite true that we can never rule out the possibility that there are such unknown unknowns and that some of them will forever remain unknown, because for some (unknown) reason human intelligence is not up to the task.

But the important thing to note about these unknown unknowns is that nothing can be said about them. To presume, from the outset, that some unknown unknownswill always remain unknown, as mysterians do, is not modesty its arrogance.

Maarten Boudry is a postdoctoral researcher of the philosophy of science at Ghent University. This article first appeared on The Conversation

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Has human evolution reached its peak for cognitive understanding? - The Independent

The Power of Wrong Answers in Science Education – WIRED

No one ever said science education was easy. Certainly the concepts we teach, like conservation of momentum or quantum mechanics, can be hard to grasp. But what really complicates the endeavor is that were also trying to teach a deeper lesson at the same timeto help students understand the nature of science itself.

All too often, young people get the impression that science is about learning certain laws and then applying them to different situations. After all, thats what we make them do on tests, to show that theyve been doing the work. But thats not it at all. Science is the process of building these concepts through the collection of experimental evidence.

And while Im on it, lets call these concepts what they really arenot laws, but models. Science is all about building and testing models. It's difficult to help students understand that aspect of science when we just give them the models to begin with. Sure, in physics we often include historical or mathematical evidence to support big ideas, but that often isnt enough.

Of course, we cant start from scratch. If students had to build their own models from the ground up, it would be like trying to learn programming by inventing computers. As Isaac Newton is supposed to have said, we stand on the shoulders of giants. We must take models built by others and go from there.

But theres still another challenge in science education that is less often recognized: Students often enter a course with their own unarticulated ideas about how the world works. We call these misconceptions, but its important to realize that these are also models, based on their life experiences, and that they must make sense to the student.

What Id like to suggest is that this actually provides a great way into the adventure of science and an opportunity to meet our objectives as educators. If you can create a situation that challenges students assumptions and produces conceptual conflict, that's a great opportunity for learning.

Heres a fun example that Ive used, on the topic of light rays. I set up a point light source and put a piece of cardboard in front of it. Theres a small pinhole in the cardboard and a white screen behind. What do you expect to see?

No surprise: A light shining through a pinhole makes a dot on the screen. Now Ill ask the students: What if I have TWO light sources with the same single hole?

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The Power of Wrong Answers in Science Education - WIRED

New Quantum-Mechanical Dissipation Mechanism Observed for the First Time – SciTechDaily

The gold tip is moved across the surface of the topological insulator and experiences energy loss only at discrete, quantized energies. This is related to the image potential states that are formed over the conducting surface of the topological insulator. Credit: University of Basel, Departement of Physics

Topological insulators are innovative materials that conduct electricity on the surface, but act as insulators on the inside. Physicists at the University of Basel and the Istanbul Technical University have begun investigating how they react to friction. Their experiment shows that the heat generated through friction is significantly lower than in conventional materials. This is due to a new quantum mechanism, the researchers report in the scientific journal Nature Materials.

Thanks to their unique electrical properties, topological insulators promise many innovations in the electronics and computer industries, as well as in the development of quantum computers. The thin surface layer can conduct electricity almost without resistance, resulting in less heat than traditional materials. This makes them of particular interest for electronic components.

Our measurements clearly show that at certain voltages there is virtually no heat generation caused by electronic friction. Dr. Dilek Yildiz

Furthermore, in topological insulators, the electronic friction i.e. the electron-mediated conversion of electrical energy into heat can be reduced and controlled. Researchers of the University of Basel, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute (SNI) and the Istanbul Technical University have now been able to experimentally verify and demonstrate exactly how the transition from energy to heat through friction behaves a process known as dissipation.

The team headed by Professor Ernst Meyer at the Department of Physics of the University of Basel investigated the effects of friction on the surface of a bismuth telluride topological insulator. The scientists used an atomic force microscope in pendulum mode. Here, the conductive microscope tip made of gold oscillates back and forth just above the two-dimensional surface of the topological insulator. When a voltage is applied to the microscope tip, the movement of the pendulum induces a small electrical current on the surface.

In conventional materials, some of this electrical energy is converted into heat through friction. The result on the conductive surface of the topological insulator looks very different: the loss of energy through the conversion to heat is significantly reduced.

Our measurements clearly show that at certain voltages there is virtually no heat generation caused by electronic friction, explains Dr. Dilek Yildiz, who carried out this work within the SNI Ph.D. School.

The researchers were also able to observe for the first time a new quantum-mechanical dissipation mechanism that occurs only at certain voltages. Under these conditions, the electrons migrate from the tip through an intermediate state into the material similar to the tunneling effect in scanning tunneling microscopes. By regulating the voltage, the scientists were able to influence the dissipation. These measurements confirm the great potential of topological insulators, since electronic friction can be controlled in a targeted manner, adds Meyer.

Reference: Mechanical dissipation via image potential states on a topological insulator surface by D. Yildiz, M. Kisiel, U. Gysin, O. Grl and E. Meyer, 14 October 2019, Nature Materials.DOI: 10.1038/s41563-019-0492-3

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New Quantum-Mechanical Dissipation Mechanism Observed for the First Time - SciTechDaily