Get your fill of sci-fi, science, and mockery of stupid people
* FAQ    * Search   * Register   * Login 
Want to support this site? Click

Quote of the Week: "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within." - Will Durant, American historian (1885-1981)


All times are UTC - 5 hours [ DST ]




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 5 posts ] 
Author Message
 Post subject: Quantum computing measurements leave Schrödingers cat alive PostPosted: 2012-10-05 08:47am
Offline
Emperor's Hand
User avatar

Joined: 2005-03-20 07:26pm
Posts: 8499
Location: Sparkling with Iceland!
Found this on Electronics Weekly home page

Quote:
By making constant but weak measurements of a quantum system, physicists have managed to probe a delicate quantum state without destroying it – the equivalent of taking a peek at Schrodinger's metaphorical cat without killing it. The result should make it easier to handle systems such as quantum computers that exploit the exotic properties of the quantum world.

Quantum objects have the bizarre but useful property of being able to exist in multiple states at once, a phenomenon called superposition. Physicist Erwin Schrödinger illustrated the strange implications of superposition by imagining a cat in a box whose fate depends on a radioactive atom. Because the atom's decay is governed by quantum mechanics – and so only takes a definite value when it is measured – the cat is, somehow, both dead and alive until the box is opened.


Superposition could, in theory, let quantum computers run calculations in parallel by holding information in quantum bits. Unlike ordinary bits, these qubits don't take a value of 1 or 0, but instead exist as a mixture of the two, only settling on a definite value of 1 or 0 when measured.

But this ability to destroy superpositions simply by peeking at them makes systems that depend on this property fragile. That has been a stumbling block for would-be quantum computer scientists, who need quantum states to keep it together long enough to do calculations.


Gentle measurement

Researchers had suggested it should be possible, in principle, to make measurements that are "gentle" enough not to destroy the superposition. The idea was to measure something less direct than whether the bit is a 1 or a 0 – the equivalent of looking at Schrödinger's cat through blurry glasses. This wouldn't allow you to gain a "strong" piece of information – whether the cat was alive or dead – but you might be able to detect other properties.

Now, R. Vijay of the University of California, Berkeley, and colleagues have managed to create a working equivalent of those blurry glasses. "We only partially open the box," says Vijay.

The team started with a tiny superconducting circuit commonly used as a qubit in quantum computers, and put it in a superposition by cycling its state between 0 and 1 so that it repeatedly hit all the possible mixtures of states.

Next, the team measured the frequency of this oscillation. This is inherently a weaker measurement than determining whether the bit took on the value of 1 or 0 at any point, so the thought was that it might be possible to do this without forcing the qubit to choose between a 1 or a 0. However, it also introduced a complication.

Quantum pacemaker

Even though the measurement was gentle enough not to destroy the quantum superposition, the measurement did randomly change the oscillation rate. This couldn't be predicted, but the team was able to make the measurement very quickly, allowing the researchers to inject an equal but opposite change into the system that returned the qubit's frequency to the value it would have had if it had not been measured at all.

This feedback is similar to what happens in a pacemaker: if the system drifts too far from the desired state, whether that's a steady heartbeat or a superposition of ones and zeros, you can nudge it back towards where it should be.

Vijay's team was not the first to come up with this idea of using feedback to probe a quantum system, but the limiting factor in the past had been that measurements weak enough to preserve the system gave signals too small to detect and correct, while bigger measurements introduced noise into the system that was too big to control.

Error correction

Vijay and colleagues used a new kind of amplifier that let them turn up the signal without contaminating it. They found that their qubit stayed in its oscillating state for the entire run of the experiment. That was only about a hundredth of a second – but, crucially, it meant that the qubit had survived the measuring process.

"This demonstration shows we are almost there, in terms of being able to implement quantum error controls," Vijay says. Such controls could be used to prolong the superpositions of qubits in quantum computing, he says, by automatically nudging qubits that were about to collapse.

The result is not perfect, points out Howard Wiseman of Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia, in an article accompanying the team's paper. "But compared with the no-feedback result of complete unpredictability within several microseconds, the observed stabilization of the qubit's cycling is a big step forward in the feedback control of an individual qubit."

Journal reference: Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature11505

Syndicated content: Lisa Grossman, New Scientist


All I can say on this is SCIENCE FUCK YEAH!!!



Image
Praying is another way of doing nothing helpful
"Congratulations, you get a cookie. You almost got a fundamental English word correct." Pick
"Outlaw star has spaceships that punch eachother" Joviwan
Read "Tales From The Crossroads"!
Read "One Wrong Turn"!
Image

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: Quantum computing measurements leave Schrödingers cat al PostPosted: 2012-10-05 10:41am
Offline
Jedi Knight
User avatar

Joined: 2011-11-17 12:20am
Posts: 673
Purely to play devil's advocate, why is this a case of SCIENCE FUCK YEAH and not one of us having misunderstood how this stuff actually works? It's certainly cool when we do something we though was impossible, but it also means we were wrong when we said it was impossible.

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: Quantum computing measurements leave Schrödingers cat al PostPosted: 2012-10-05 12:10pm
Offline
Emperor's Hand
User avatar

Joined: 2005-03-20 07:26pm
Posts: 8499
Location: Sparkling with Iceland!
Because science is about not just proving one thing wrong, but showing what is correct in it's place.
It is easy to say "Your theory is all wrong" but then not to have anything to put in it's place.

But to say "This is wrong, and Now I can show what is right!" is fucking awesome in the science world.



Image
Praying is another way of doing nothing helpful
"Congratulations, you get a cookie. You almost got a fundamental English word correct." Pick
"Outlaw star has spaceships that punch eachother" Joviwan
Read "Tales From The Crossroads"!
Read "One Wrong Turn"!
Image

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: Quantum computing measurements leave Schrödingers cat al PostPosted: 2012-10-05 04:25pm
Offline
Jedi Council Member
User avatar

Joined: 2005-12-19 10:34pm
Posts: 1996
Location: Florida
Science is all about learning. It's always a "fuck yeah" moment when something new can be learned.

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: Quantum computing measurements leave Schrödingers cat al PostPosted: 2012-10-05 11:43pm
Offline
Jedi Council Member
User avatar

Joined: 2003-03-13 04:10am
Posts: 2459
Location: Fréchet space
Despite the name, "weak measurements" are not measurements. Rather, they are certain kind of distorted generalization of the average value of an ensemble of many identical systems. It's not even the value of what the average of actual measurements would be, or in general anywhere close to that, being more dependent on the prior state and response of the weak 'measurement' apparatus than the system it's supposedly measuring.

Esquire wrote:
It's certainly cool when we do something we though was impossible, but it also means we were wrong when we said it was impossible.

It doesn't do anything physicists in general have thought to be impossible.

Crossroads Inc. wrote:
Because science is about not just proving one thing wrong, but showing what is correct in it's place.

There isn't anything that has been shown to be wrong. I'm sure what techniques are new compared to previous weak measurements, but one thing it's definitely not going to do is overturn anything in quantum mechanics whatsoever.



"The fool saith in his heart that there is no empty set. But if that were so, then the set of all such sets would be empty, and hence it would be the empty set." -- Wesley Salmon

Top
 Profile  
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 5 posts ] 

All times are UTC - 5 hours [ DST ]


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot] and 3 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group