Albert Einstein was fond of saying that “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” What if our world, our universe, following Einstein’s insight, is the result of a quantum-physics experiment performed by some ancient hyper-advanced alien civilization. A civilization that, as astrophysicist Paul Davies speculates, may exist beyond matter.
In The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence Davies writes: “Thinking about advanced alien life requires us to abandon all our presuppositions about the nature of life, mind, civilization, technology and community destiny. In short, it means thinking the unthinkable. Five hundred years ago the very concept of a device manipulating information, or software, would have been incomprehensible. Might there be a still higher level, as yet outside all human experience?”
Within an infinite space of current cosmology, suggests the University of Chicago theoretical physicist, Dan Hooper, there are inevitably an infinite number of universes that are indistinguishable from our own. “Yet some of the regions within the multiverse,” says Hooper, “are likely to be alien worlds with unknown forces and new forms of matter along with more or fewer than three dimensions of space –worlds utterly unlike anything we can imagine.”
Challenging 100-year Old Notions at the Quantum Level
As if on cue, reports Finland’s Aalto University, a team of physicists used an IBM quantum computer to explore an overlooked area of physics, and have challenged 100 year old cherished 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 you as in the actual world. In their new paper they created a toy-universe that behaves according to these new rules.
Beyond 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 its fundamental equations to making use of Hermitian operators that are not Hermitian. The new equations 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 you as in the actual world.
New Rules of Non-Hermitian Quantum Mechanics
The researchers made qubits, the part of the quantum computer that carries out calculations, behave according to the new rules of non-Hermitian quantum mechanics. They demonstrated experimentally a couple of exciting results which are forbidden by regular Hermitian quantum mechanics. The first discovery was that applying operations to the qubits did not conserve quantum information – a behavior so fundamental to standard quantum theory that it results in currently unsolved problems like Stephen Hawking’s Black Hole Information paradox.
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 would experience a magic connection that makes them behave in sync with each other. Einstein was famously 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 tampering with one of the particles on its own. However in non-Hermitian quantum mechanics, the researchers were able to alter the level of entanglement of the qubits by manipulating just one of them: a result that is expressly off-limits in regular quantum physics.
Einstein’s Spooky Action Becomes Spookier
“The exciting thing about these results is that quantum computers are now developed enough to start using them for testing unconventional ideas that have been only mathematical so far” 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 is going on, it still gives you the shivers.”
Source: “Quantum simulation of parity-time symmetry breaking with a superconducting quantum processor”. The work was performed under the Finnish Center of Excellence in Quantum Technology (QTF) of the Academy of Finland.
Image credit: Shutterstock License