måndag 16 januari 2017

Is Quantum Computing Possible?

  • .....may or may not be mystery as to what the world view that quantum mechanics represents. At least I do, because I'm an old enough man that I haven't got to the point that this stuff is obvious to me. Okay, I still get nervous with it. And therefore, some of the younger students ... you know how it always is, every new idea, it takes a generation or two until it becomes obvious that there's no real problem. It has not yet become obvious to me that there's no real problem. I cannot define the real problem, therefore I suspect there's no real problem, but I'm note sure there's no real problem. 
  • So that's why I like to investigate things. So I know that quantum mechanics seem to involve probability--and I therefore want to talk about simulating probability. (Feynman asking himself about a possibility of quantum computing in 1982)
The idea of quantum computing originates from a 1982 speculation by Feynman followed up by Deutsch on the possibility of designing a quantum computer supposedly making use of the quantum states of subatomic particles to process and store information. The hope was that quantum computing would allow certain computations, such as factoring a large natural number into prime factors, which are impossible on a classical digital computer.

A quantum computer would be able to crack encryption based on prime factorisation and thus upset the banking system and the world. In the hands of terrorists it would be a dangerous weapon...and so do we have to be afraid of quantum computing?

Not yet in any case! Quantum computing is still a speculation and nothing like any real quantum computer cracking encryption has been constructed up to date, 35 years later. But the hopes are still high...although so far the top result is factorisation of 15 into 3 x 5...(...in 2012, the factorization of 21 was achieved, setting the record for the largest number factored with Shor's algorithm...)

But what is the reason behind the hopes? The origin is the special form of Schrödinger's equation as the basic mathematical model of the atomic world viewed as a quantum world fundamentally different from the macroscopic world of our lives and the classical computer, in terms of a wave function
  • $\psi (x_1,...,x_N,t)$ 
depending on $N$ three-dimensional spatial coordinates $x_1$,...,$x_N$ (and time $t$) for a system of $N$ quantum particles such as an atom with $N$ electrons. Such a wave function thus depends on $3N$ spatial variables of $N$ different versions of $R^3$ as three-dimensional Euclidean space.

The multi-dimensional wave function $\psi (x_1,...,x_N,t)$ is to be compared with a classical field variable like density $\rho (x,t)$ depending on a single 3d spatial variable $x\in R^3$. The wave function $\psi (x_1,...,x_N,t)$ depends on $N$ different copies of $R^3$, while for $\rho (x,t)$ there is only one copy, and that is the copy we are living in.

In the Many Worlds Interpretation MWI of Schrödinger's equation the $N$ different copies of $R^3$ are given existence as parallel universes or multiversa, while our experience still must be restricted to just one of them, with the other as distant shadows.

The wave function $\psi (x_1,...,x_N,t)$ thus has an immense richness through its contact with multiversa, and the idea of quantum computing is to somehow use this immense richness by sending a computational task to multiversa for processing and then bringing back the result to our single universe for inspection.

It would be like sending a piece of information to an immense cloud for complex computational processing and then bringing it back for inspection. But for this to work the cloud must exist in some form and be accessible.

Quantum computing is thus closely related to MWI and the reality of a quantum computer would seem to depend on a reality of multiversa. The alternative to MWI and multiversa is the probabilistic Copenhagen Interpretation CI, but that does not make things more clear or hopeful.

But what is the reason behind MWI and multiversa? The only reason is the multi-dimensional aspect of Schrödinger's equation, but Schrödinger's equation is a man-made ad hoc variation of the equations of motion of classical mechanics obtained by a purely formal procedure of representing momentum $p$ by a multi-dimensional gradient differential operator as $p=i\nabla$ thus formally replacing $p^2$ by the action on $\psi$ by a multi-dimensional Laplacian $-\Delta =-\sum_j\Delta_j$ with $\Delta_j$ the Laplacian with respect to $x_j$, thus acting with respect to all the $x_j$ for $j=1,...,N$.

But by formally replacing $p$ by $i\nabla$ is just a formality without physical reason, and it is from this formality that MWI and multiversa arise and then also the hopes of quantum computing.  Is there then reason to believe that the multi-dimensional $-\Delta\psi$ has a physical meaning, or does it rather represent some form of Kabbalism or scripture interpretation?

My view is that multiversa and quantum computing based on a multi-dimensional Schrödinger equation based on a formality, is far-fetched irrational dreaming, that Feynman's feeling of a real problem sensed something important,  and this is my reason for exploration of realQM based on a new version of Schrödinger's equation in physical three-dimensional space.

PS1 One may argue that if MWI is absurd, which many think, then CI is also absurd, which many think, since both are interpretations of one an the same multi-dimensional Schrödinger equation, and the conclusion would then be that if all interpretations are absurd, then so is what is being interpreted, right? Even more reason for realQM and less hope for quantum computing...

PS2 MWI was formulated by Hugh Everett III in his 1956 thesis with Wheeler. Many years later, Everett laughingly recounted to Misner, in a tape-recorded conversation at a cocktail party in May 1977, that he came up with his many-worlds idea in 1954 "after a slosh or two of sherry", when he, Misner, and Aage Petersen (Bohr’s assistant) were thinking up "ridiculous things about the implications of quantum mechanics". (see Many Worlds? Everett, Quantum Theory and Reality, Oxford University Press)

PS3 To get a glimpse of the mind-boggling complexity of $3N$-dimensional space, think of the big leaps form 1d to 2d and from 2d to 3d, and then imagine the leap to the 6d of the two electrons of Helium with $N=2$ as the simplest of all atoms beyond Hydrogen with $N=1$. In this perspective a single Helium atom as quantum computer could be imagined to have the computational power of a laptop. Yes, many dimensions and many worlds are mind-boggling, and as such maybe just phantasy.

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