Monday, May 11, 2020

Is the Moon Really There When Nobody Looks? Quantum Computing pt.0

Physics, Schrödinger'S Cat, Schrödinger

What would the Cheshire Cat say if he ever met Schröddinger's Cat?

I like cats. Wait a moment, let me rephrase that: Cats are, in some situations, better than humans. Even when they aren't real. I wonder if that is the reason cats always end up in my writings. But that is topic for another day.

After all, this is the day I've dreaded for a long time: I'll write about something seemingly impossible to explain - it is harder than rocket science - and I've challenged myself to do so in a way that isn't hard to understand. Let me know if I succeed...

If someone says that he can think or talk about quantum physics without becoming dizzy, that shows only that he has not understood anything whatever about it.
Murray Gell-Mann
Exactly 102 years ago one of the greatest minds of the past century was being born: Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize winner physician, and a very intriguing mind. However, one of the best things I've learned from Feynman came something he said that made me realize that (not) understanding Physics and applying it are two things weirdly related:

What I am going to tell you about is what we teach our physics students in the third or fourth year of graduate school... It is my task to convince you not to turn away because you don't understand it. You see my physics students don't understand it. ... That is because I don't understand it. Nobody does.
From that, I took the courage to embark in the crazy journey of Quantum Computing. Because no matter how hard I try - or anyone I know, for that matter - I simply can't understand fully the workings of Quantum Mechanics. Why in the world superposition works? Why entanglement happens? Questions like these still intrigue me, and I presume they'll keep doing it, no matter how much I think. So I just "shut up and calculate"*, but secretly talking about it, as obviously seen here...

Anyway, where should I begin? Perhaps with the invention that has triggered many of the economic and societal revolutions from the last two centuries: the lightbulb. A surprisingly simple contraption, that is based on electrical current heating a filament. It glows! (I know, vacuum, or a weird gas inside, et cetera...) Anyway, the thing is: the physics behind this glow is so complicated that it led to Planck's development, and after him, a very famous guy named Albert Einstein. And, ultimately, it was that which led to the origins of quantum mechanics...

Then, a few years later came Bohr, and literally messed everything up. His propositions were in fact so crazy that made Einstein rant frantically. He simply couldn't accept Bohr and Heisenberg's wave function collapse - putting it in simple words, it's basically something that means that tiny things can only be something after we look at them!

Outrageous, irrational, absurd...but it worked. In fact, it worked so well that for years - the Einstein/Bohr debate lasted for decades, even after their death - for years physicians would apply themselves to the quantum mechanics field, because mathematically it worked, even though nobody could explain it, let alone understand it.

After the crazy Irish hippie solved the intriguing conceptual dilemma**, people could finally say that they had a reason to keep fiddling with this heretic physics. And here we are, five decades later, having to deal with things that are either 0, 1 or a mixture of both. Yeah, precisely: crazy...

So, what would the Cheshire Cat say to Schröddinger's Cat? Well, I'll answer that question in the next chapter of this series of posts: Metaphysics or Quantum Physics? The Initial Dogmas: Qubits, Quantum Gates and Other Weird Stuff - Quantum Computing pt.1

Post Scriptum: a homework for my readers: if you are a programmer, get ready to deal with non-deterministic things and reversible operations. If you don't understand what these are, don't worry. You don't need to understand them.

If you are not a programmer, well...just keep reading. This might be useful someday :)

* If I were forced to sum up in one sentence what the Copenhagen interpretation says to me, it would be “Shut up and calculate!” But I won’t shut up. I would rather celebrate the strangeness of quantum theory than deny it, because I believe it still has interesting things to teach us about how certain powerful but flawed verbal and mental tools we once took for granted continue to infect our thinking in subtly hidden ways. I don’t think anybody, even Bohr, has done an adequate job of extracting these lessons. MerminWhat’s Wrong with this Pillow, Physics Today, 1989

** Mental note: I will write about Bell's Experiment and its implications on part 2 of this series. You'll love him, I'm sure of it!

The author has a B.S in Physics from the Wikipedia University and a Ph.D. from Yahoo Answers Institute of Technology in Quantum Eletrodynamics
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About Ricardo Prins
Ricardo Prins is a Software Engineer who thinks that technology is not the answer to all our problems.

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