Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Could Quantum Computers Break Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principal?

Here is an article, from IO9, that is bound to fry a couple of neurons. Have you heard of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principal? Simply put, it is possible to chart a particle's position or speed but never both. Have you ever wondered "why is that"? Well believe me, person's with more degrees in one place than I have ever seen, wrestle with it daily. Here is part of the problem.

Physicist Paul Diracone describes the problem thus: One of the very, very few ways to measure a particle's position is to hit it with a photon and then chart where the photon lands on a detector. That gives you the particle's position, yes, but it's also fundamentally changed its velocity, and the only way to learn that would consequently alter its position.

Has that weeeeeee little pain started just behind your eyes yet?

The thing is that Heisenberg really meant to say that you can not measure both "with any degree of accuracy" and this is where quantum computers might shine. At least that is what
five physicists from Germany, Switzerland, and Canada hope.

Prepare to fry synapses! From the article:
  • Key to quantum computers are qubits, the individual units of quantum memory. A particle would need to be entangled with a quantum memory large enough to hold all its possible states and degrees of freedom. Then, the particle would be separated and one of its features measured. If, say, its position was measured, then the researcher would tell the keeper of the quantum memory to measure its velocity.
Can you just hear Hugo Farnsworth going yeuuuuuuuuuuhwhaaaaaaaaaaaa?

This is what they hope for:
  • Because the uncertainty principle wouldn't extend from the particle to the memory, it wouldn't prevent the keeper from measuring this second figure, allowing for exact.....
  • ...would fundamentally alter our understanding of quantum mechanics and particle physics.
complete IO9 article

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