A team of scientists in China recently used what is essentially the quantum physics version of stage magic to demonstrate how fragile our concept of reality is.
Abracadabra, you don’t really exist.
In front: The big idea at play here is called “quantum advantage.” We usually hear about this in the world of quantum computing. There, quantum advantage is the hypothetical point at which a quantum computer can outperform any existing classical computer at a given task.
Outside of quantum computing, quantum advantage is used to describe a situation where the exploitation of quantum mechanics allows a person or system to outperform a person or system using a classical equivalent.
A team of researchers collaborating with scientists from Nanjing University in China has published: a pre-printed research paper last month, indicating that they had found a simple yet effective method to demonstrate quantum advantage.
Here is an excerpt from the newspaper’s summary:
Quantum advantages have been found in various areas of quantum information processing, from communication and computation to materials and engineering. Such advantages come from quantum sources, such as entanglement, non-locality, indistinguishability, and so on. Quantum games have been widely used to reveal such quantum resources in an operational way: the players equipped with a particular quantum resource can achieve better performance than those with classical ones.
To demonstrate quantum advantage in the real world, the team used a long-standing experiment called the Mermin-Peres game, where two players team up to measure photons.
The players take independent measurements of the photons and record their results on a 3X3 grid. Then a judge comes by and chooses a spot on the grid. If the players are both the same size, they win.
It’s a lot more complicated than that (here’s a very good explanation by Adrian Cho of Science), but the gist is that the rules are such that there is a mathematical limit to the accuracy that two people can achieve using classical methods.
In the Nanjing experiment, the researchers showed that independent observers measuring quantum entangled states of matter could exceed the classical limit of accuracy.
This is apparently because the measurements cause the outcomes and not the other way around.
In other words, if the base reality existed when it was not measured, we would not be able to exceed the classical accuracy threshold. But because the measurements clearly influence the outcome, we can use quantum physics to imitate telepathy. Player one’s reading is sent directly to observer two, who confirms it with theirs.
Quantum advantage through human pseudotelepathy! How cool is that?
Background: Classical physics explains the rules of the reality in which we live. It doesn’t matter if you’re a physicist or a newborn, gravity and thermodynamics affect us all in the same way.
That also means that we are all tied to the same opportunities. All things being equal, we all get a 50/50 chance of correctly calling a toss.
But quantum physics is a cheat code for the universe. When scientists started playing with matter on an incredibly small scale, they realized that the quantum world wasn’t exactly following the rules.
When physicists say things that suggest they believe objective reality doesn’t exist, they’re not necessarily funny.
The fact is that reality is no match for the scientific method.
The Nanjing experiment shows that you could probably use quantum physics to take your base 50/50 chance to predict the results of coin flips with complete confidence.
If you had entangled two coins and secretly measured the first before the second hit the ground, you would already know the outcome.
Of course, coin entangling is science fiction for now (although in theory anything in the universe can get entangled under the right circumstances). But quantum pseudo telepathy is apparently very real.
Neural Mind: As always, we take all preprint research with a grain of salt. But this seems pretty solid and it’s based on an experimental regimen that’s been around for a while.
Experiments like this make it seem like an objective reality, because we experience it as a pretty small part of the overall ‘reality pie’.
We can’t wait to see how physicists will break through reality next time.