“And so it begins”: quantum physicists create a new universe with its own rules

Credit: https://orbitaceromendoza.blogspot.com/2021/02/y-asi-comienza-los-fisicos-cuanticos.html

Albert Einstein liked to say that “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” What if our world, our universe, following Einstein’s vision, is the result of a quantum physics experiment conducted by some ancient hyper-advanced alien civilization? A civilization that, as astrophysicist Paul Davies speculates, may exist beyond matter.

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In The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence, Davies writes: “Thinking about advanced alien life requires us to abandon all our assumptions about the nature of life, mind, civilization, technology, and the fate of community. In short, it means thinking about the unthinkable. Five hundred years ago, the very concept of a device that manipulates information, or software, would have been incomprehensible. Could there be an even higher level, still outside all human experience?”

Within an infinite space of current cosmology, suggests University of Chicago theoretical physicist Dan Hooper, there are inevitably an infinite number of universes that are indistinguishable from our own. “However, some of the regions within the multiverse,” Hooper says, “are likely to be extraterrestrial worlds with unknown forces and new forms of matter along with more or less three-dimensional space, worlds completely unlike anything we can imagine.”

Challenging 100-year-old notions at the quantum level

As if on cue, reports Aalto University in Finland, a team of physicists used an IBM quantum computer to explore an overlooked area of physics and challenged cherished 100-year-old notions about information at the quantum level, creating new quantum equations that describe a universe with its own peculiar set of rules. For example, by looking in the mirror and reversing the direction of time, you should see the same version of yourself as in the real world. In their new paper they created a toy universe that behaves according to these new rules.

Beyond the fundamental equations

The rules of quantum physics, which govern how very small things behave, use mathematical operators called Hermitian Hamiltonians. Hermitian operators have underpinned quantum physics for nearly 100 years, but recently, theorists have realized that it is possible to extend their fundamental equations to make use of non-Hermitian Hermitian operators. The new equations describe a universe with its own peculiar set of rules: for example, when you look in the mirror and reverse the direction of time, you should see the same version of yourself as in the real world.

New rules of non-Hermitian quantum mechanics.

The researchers made qubits, the part of the quantum computer that performs computations, behave according to new rules of non-Hermitian quantum mechanics. They experimentally demonstrated a couple of exciting results that are forbidden by usual Hermitian quantum mechanics. The first discovery was that applying operations to qubits did not preserve quantum information, a behavior so fundamental to standard quantum theory that it results in currently unsolved problems such as Stephen Hawking’s black hole information paradox.

Enter entanglement

The second exciting result came when they experimented with two entangled qubits. Entanglement is a type of correlations that appears between qubits, as if they experience a magical connection that makes them behave in sync with each other. Einstein was very uncomfortable with this concept, referring to it as “spooky action at a distance.” Under regular quantum physics, it is not possible to alter the degree of entanglement between two particles by manipulating one of the particles alone. However, in non-Hermitian quantum mechanics, researchers were able to alter the level of entanglement of qubits by manipulating just one of them: a result that is expressly outside the bounds of regular quantum physics.

Einstein’s spooky action just gets spookier

“The exciting thing about these results is that quantum computers are now developed enough to start using them to test unconventional ideas that until now have only been mathematical,” said lead researcher Sorin Paraoanu. “With the present work, Einstein’s spooky action at a distance becomes even spookier. And, although we understand very well what’s going on, it still gives you chills.”

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