Friday, May 6, 2011

quantum computing: the means to prove "alternate universes"

In this week's issue of The New Yorker, an article by Rivka Galchen, entitled "Dream Machine," chronicles the theories of David Deutsch, a quantum physicist. Deutsch believes that, and this is important as it lays the foundation of quantum mechanics, "particles can be in two places at once, a quality called superposition; that two particles can be related, or 'entangled,' such that they can instantly coordinate their properties, regardless of their distance in space and time; and that when we look at particles, we unavoidably alter them." Incidentally, Albert "Einstein found entanglement particularly troubling, denigrating it as a 'spooky action at a distance.'"

Bear with me here as I backtrack a little. In 1957, Hugh Everett, another physicist, postulated that "every time there is more than one possible outcome, all of them occur. So if a radioactive atom might or might not decay at any given second, it both does and doesn't; in one universe it does, and in another it doesn't. These small branchings of possibility then ripple out until everything that is possible in fact is. According to Many Worlds (the name given to the alternate universe) theory, instead of a single history there are in-numerable branchings. In one universe your cat has died, in another he hasn't, in a third you died in a sledding accident at age seven and never put your cat in the box in the first place, and so on."

In Many Worlds theory, the strangeness of superposition is simply "the phenomenon of physical variables having different values in different universes." Thus the entanglement (also referred to as superposition) that bothered Einstein, is resolved. Information between two particles separated by space and time "still spreads through direct contact - the 'ordinary' way; it's just we need to adjust to that contact being via the tangencies of abutting universes. As a further bonus, in Many Words theory randomness goes away, too. A ten-percent chance of an atom decaying is not arbitrary at all, but rather refers to the certainty that the atom will decay in ten-percent of the universes branched from that point."

Deutsch postulates that a quantum computer, fundamentally different from the ones we presently employ, could help prove the existence of Many Worlds. "A quantum computer is in many ways like a regular computer, but instead of bits it uses qubits. Each qubit can be zero or one, like a bit, but a qubit can also be zero AND one - the quantum-mechanical quirk known as superposition." "Superposition is like Freud's description of true amblivalence: not feeling unsure, but feeling opposing extremes of conviction at once. And, just as ambivalence holds more information than any single emotion, a qubit holds more information than a bit."

"Entangled particles have a kind of E.S.P.: regardless of distance, they can instantly share information that an observer cannot even perceive is there. Input into a quantum computer can thus be dispersed among entangled qubits, which lets the processing of that information be spread out as well; tell one particle something, and it can instantly spread the word among all the other particles with which it's entangled."

Ultimately, "entangled particles would function as paths of communication among different universes, sharing information and gathering the results. " While it is technically difficult to produce a quantum computer (for reasons too technical for me to even begin to understand, let alone explain), attempts ARE being made. A Yale team has constructed one that is built on a two-qubit architecture. Qubits chips are incredibly difficult to manufacture but once techniques are developed, more and more qubits can be incorporated, ultimately leading to a computer dreamed of by Deutsch. The present computer can calculate with 80% accuracy, which of four randomly dealt cards has the queen. Such is the potential power of a quantum computer.

Personally, without the solid background of quantum physics in my repertoire, I BELIEVE in the Many Worlds theory. Call it intuitive or just a leap of faith, I just KNOW there are infinite possibilities that exist out there and that my multiple selves are pursuing each and every one of them.


Sarah said...

Have you been watching Fringe??

Stephen Seko said...

Sarah, I have not. Perhaps I'll have to indulge in those full "season" DVDs until I get caught up. I hear it's good and I know there is a heavy Alternate Universe story line that has emerged.