A team of scientists has discovered that a law controlling the bizarre behavior of black holes out in space--is also true for cold helium atoms that can be studied in laboratories.
"It's called an entanglement area law," says Adrian Del Maestro, a physicist at the University of Vermont who co-led the research. That this law appears at both the vast scale of outer space and at the tiny scale of atoms, "is weird," Del Maestro says, "and it points to a deeper understanding of reality."
Scientists have discovered that a sphere of cold helium atoms (in green) -- interacting with a surrounding larger container of the same kind of atoms (in blue) -- follows a bizarre rule of physics, called an entanglement area law, also observed in black holes. This discovery points to a "deeper reality," says University of Vermont physicist Adrian Del Maestro and may be a step toward using superfluid helium as the fuel of a new generation of ultra-fast quantum computers.
Credit: Adrian Del Maestro/Nature Physics
The new study was published March 13 in the journal Nature Physics--and it may be a step toward a long-sought quantum theory of gravity and new advances in quantum computing.
AT THE SURFACE
In the 1970s, famed physicists Stephen Hawking and Jacob Bekenstein discovered something strange about black holes. They calculated that when matter falls into one of these bottomless holes in space, the amount of information it gobbles up--what scientists call its entropy--increases only as fast as its surface area increases, not its volume.
This would be like measuring how many files there are in a filing cabinet based on the surface area of the drawer rather than how deep the drawer is. As with many aspects of modern physics, check your common sense at the door.
"We have found the same type of law is obeyed for quantum information in superfluid helium," says Del Maestro. To make their discovery, UVM's Del Maestro and three colleagues from the University of Waterloo in Canada first created an exact simulation of the physics of extremely cold helium after it transforms from a gas into a form of matter called a superfluid:
below about two degrees Kelvin, helium atoms--exhibiting the dual wave/particle nature that Max Planck and others discovered--become glopped together such that the individual atoms cannot be described independent from each other. Instead, they form a cooperative dance that the scientists call quantum entangled.
Using two supercomputers, the scientists explored the interactions of sixty-four helium atoms in a superfluid. They found that the amount of entangled quantum information shared between two regions of a container--a sphere of the helium partitioned off from the larger container--was determined by the surface area of the sphere and not its volume. Like a holograph, it seems that a three-dimensional volume of space is entirely encoded on its two-dimensional surface. Just like a black hole.
This idea had been guessed at from a principle in physics called "locality" but had never been observed before in an experiment. By using a complete numerical simulation of all the attributes of helium, the scientists were, for the first time ever, able to demonstrate the existence of the entanglement area law in a real quantum liquid.
"Superfluid helium could become an important resource--the fuel--for a new generation of quantum computers," says Del Maestro, whose work is supported by the National Science Foundation. But to make use of its huge information processing potential, he says, "we have to understand more deeply how it works."
In the 1920s, Albert Einstein famously--and skeptically--referred to entanglement as "spooky action at a distance." Since that time, entanglement has been demonstrated as real by numerous laboratory and theoretical experiments. Instead of defying the universe's maximum speed limit--the speed of light--what entanglement increasingly seems to show is that our human macro-scale understanding of distance, and time itself, may be illusory. A pair of entangled particles may have a quantum communication, seeming to "know" each others' state instantly across miles. But this intuition mixes up our classical view of reality with a deeper quantum reality in which a form of information--entanglement entropy--is "delocalized," spread out in a system, with millions of possible states, or "superpositions," that only become fixed by the action of measuring. (Consider Schrödinger's cat--both dead and alive.)
"Entanglement is non-classical information shared between parts of a quantum state," notes Del Maestro. It's "the characteristic trait of quantum mechanics that is most foreign to our classical reality."
Being able to understand, let alone control, quantum entanglement in complex systems with many particles has proven difficult. The observation of an entanglement area law in this new experiment points toward quantum liquids, like superfluid helium, as a possible medium for starting to master entanglement. For example, the new study reveals that the density of the superfluid helium regulates the amount of entanglement. That suggests that laboratory experiments and, eventually, quantum computers could manipulate the density of a quantum liquid as a "possible knob," Del Maestro says, for regulating entanglement.
And this new research has implications for some fundamental problems in physics. So far, the study of gravity has largely defied efforts to bring it under the umbrella of quantum mechanics, but theorists continue to look for connections. "Our classical theory of gravity relies on knowing exactly the shape or geometry of space-time," Del Maestro says, but quantum mechanics requires uncertainty about this shape. A piece of the bridge between these may be formed by this new study's contribution to the "holographic principle": the exotic contention that the entire 3-D universe might be understood as two-dimensional information--whether a gargantuan black hole or microscopic puddle of superfluid helium
Joshua Brown | EurekAlert!
Moon's crust underwent resurfacing after forming from magma ocean
22.11.2017 | University of Texas at Austin
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope completes final cryogenic testing
21.11.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.
Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....
The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...
Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...
Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....
The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...
15.11.2017 | Event News
15.11.2017 | Event News
30.10.2017 | Event News
22.11.2017 | Medical Engineering
22.11.2017 | Materials Sciences
22.11.2017 | Health and Medicine