Schrödinger's Quantum Switch

    The world around us has been working under the laws of the natural sciences since its inception. Any practical phenomenon, we can explain, based on the very laws. And now we already know that lightning is not the wrath of Zeus, the tsunami is not the scent of Neptune, the Earth is not flat, but huge turtles holding whole worlds on themselves do not exist. True, some particularly stubborn members of our race still believe in the last statements. But today we will talk about science, which likes to turn everything upside down, about quantum mechanics.

    More precisely, about research, which experimentally demonstrates the fact that we do not always have a single state of something. By applying knowledge from quantum mechanics, scientists managed to achieve an indefinite causal order in a quantum switch. What it is and how it works, we learn from their report. Go.

    Basis of the study The

    causal link is a very familiar and understandable phenomenon. We know that a certain action leads to a certain result, as a rule. Of course, sometimes there can be different paths of development of events, but always one is chosen. So, for example, we can plant a seed in a pot, and the flower will grow or not grow. He cannot do both. It is worth remembering the wonderful theoretical experiment "Schrödinger's Cat".

    In order not to stretch the story, the description of this experiment is hidden under the spoiler:

    Данный теоретический эксперимент был описан самим Шрёдингером довольно подробно и сложно, в какой-то степени. Упрощенный вариант звучит так:

    Есть стальная коробка. В коробке кот и механизм. Механизм — счетчик Гейгера с очень малым количеством радиоактивного вещества. Данное вещество так мало, что за 1 час может распасться 1 атом (а может и не распасться). Если это происходит, то считывающая трубка счетчика разряжается и срабатывает реле, освобождающее молоток, который висит над колбой с ядом. Колба разбивается, и яд убивает кота.

    Теперь пояснение. Мы не видим, что происходит в коробке, мы не можем повлиять на процесс, даже своими наблюдениями. Пока мы не откроем коробку, мы не знаем жив кот или мертв. Таким образом, утрируя, можно сказать, что для нас кот в коробке находится в двух состояниях одновременно: он и жив, и мертв.

    Очень интересный эксперимент, раздвигающий границы квантовой физики.

    Еще более необычным можно считать парадокс Вигнера. К всем вышеуказанным переменным эксперимента добавляются некие друзья лаборанта, что проводит данный эксперимент. Когда он открывает коробку и узнает точное состояние кота, его товарищ, находясь в другом месте, этого состояния не знает. Первый должен сообщить второму, что кот жив или мертв. Таким образом, пока все во Вселенной не будут знать точного состояния бедного животного, оно будет считаться и мертвым, и живым одновременно.

    To study an uncertain causal order, a framework is used that determines whether an experimental situation (the process) refers to a fixed causal process or not. An example of a process of indefinite causal order is a quantum switch in which black box * operations are performed in the target system, while the switch itself is coherently controlled by the control quantum system.
    Black box * - in this case, the designation of operations that are not yet known.
    According to scientists, the main advantage of a quantum switch is the fact that it cannot be implemented using a conventional quantum scheme that uses the same number of black box operations.

    And now the question that immediately arose in the minds of scientists - is it possible in the laboratory to implement this quantum switch? The fact is that at the moment the implementation of this technology does not take advantage of the quantum switch, since additional “black boxes” are used. In such an implementation, the order is controlled by the path chosen by the photons, while each “black box” (in this case, the wave plates) acts depending on their polarization. That is, photons pass through wave plates at two different points in space, depending on the order. In addition, there is one more minus (or rather a limitation) - the coherence length of photons in such an implementation is much shorter than the distance between two wave plates. This means that operations may also differ in time,

    Scientists are well aware that the implementation described above is fraught with many limitations. That is why they have focused on the quantum switch, which can overcome these limitations.

    Image number 1: quantum switch.

    Image No. 1 shows the operation of the quantum switch, where the controlling qubit is responsible for a certain order in which two quantum operations A and B are performed, aimed at the target qubit | t .

    1a - when the controlling qubit is in the state | 0⟩ s , then as a result we have an operation of the type AB;
    1b - when controlling qubit is in the state | 1⟩ with, the result is an operation BA;
    1c - if the controlling qubit is in the state of quantum superposition 1 / √2 (| 0⟩ + | 1⟩) s , the order of operations also goes to quantum superposition. As a result, the overall state of the controlling and target systems at the output is as follows:

    1d - the target qubit | ψ⟩t is encoded in the degree of freedom of polarization, while | 0⟩ and | 1⟩ are different paths of photons through the wave plates. These paths implement operations A and B. As the photons pass through the wave plates at two different points, we get 4 different operations: A1, A2 and B1, B2.

    It is worth noting that in the implementation of the quantum switch, scientists used only 2 operations of the “black box” type, each of which was used only once. In the experimental system, the controlling qubit is coded in polarization, and the target qubit is encoded in the transverse spatial mode of the photon.

    Researchers say that their interest in a quantum switch originates from the desire to realize the causal ordering of the quantum type, which no one has done before.

    Given this, in this study, causal relationships are defined as the ability to transmit signals between events.. Events imply modifying, preparing, or transforming a physical system. As an example, scientists cite a photon passing through several lenses. This photon defines an event.

    The causal structure is a network of possible causal connections between several events.

    With the "local" terminology sorted out, now about the process. First, consider the relativistic cause-and-effect system. If event A is in the past in relation to event B, then we can send a signal from A to B. If the events are spatially separated (far apart in space), then there can be no signal exchange.

    It is worthwhile to clarify what “spatial separation” is by adding this concept to others associated with it.

    Imagine two separate events: A and B. If you are fast enough, you can see both A and B. This is a temporary separation. If events are so far apart, then in order to see both of you have to move at the speed of light, this is the light division. If events A and B are further away from each other, when you cannot see both even moving at the speed of light, then this is a spatial separation. This is a slightly rude explanation.

    As we already saw in the diagrams above, there are two operations A and B. In fact, there are three of them, there is another operation C. More about each of them.

    A and B are operations on the target system, implemented along the two arms of the interferometer. But Cthese are measurements of the controlling system, which are made after both events A and B have taken place. All these three events must be recognized by a quantum switch.

    The scheme of the experiment.

    And now we will consider the scheme according to which the experiment was carried out. As we already know, the controlling qubit is determined by polarization, therefore there are two polarizing beam splitters - PBS1 and PBS2 . PBS1 directs the photon to event A or B, which implements the corresponding operations A and B in the spatial mode of the photon. Event C is represented by a polarization measurement describing the Stokes * parameters of a photon. To ensure the conformity of the modes, lenses were used ( L1 and L2 in the diagram).
    Stokes parameters * - a set of quantities describing the polarization vector of electromagnetic waves.
    A 100 kHz laser beam with a wavelength of 795 nm with a low-order transverse mode (HG 00 ) was used as the radiation source . Next, the laser beam was transformed into HG 10 Hermitian-Gaussian mode by passing the beam through an element that adds the π-phase to half the beam. The result is a spatial mode that is a superposition of Hermitian-Gaussian modes. Next, Fourier filtering was used to remove most of the high order spatial modes. Thus, the qubit space of the target system consists of first-order spatial modes (| 0⟩ = | HG 10 ; | 1⟩ = | HG 01 ). And the initial value of the target qubit | ψ⟩t is | 0⟩.

    So, passing through the PBS1 polarization splitter, the beam is divided into two arms of the interferometer (scheme above). Here, two unitary operations A and B operate in a transverse spatial mode, although in ideal conditions they should not change the polarization of the beam. The upper and lower shoulders are connected to the output divider PBS2. The resulting mod is sent back to PBS1. Lenses provide conformity of the mode, that is, the mode re-entered into the interferometer, must coincide with the original mode.

    The scheme of implementation of operations A and B.

    Prisms ( R ) rotate the incoming transverse mode. At one time, cylindrical lenses ( C ) lead to a π / 2 phase shift of the Hermitian-Gaussian components of the incoming photon. Spherical lenses ( L) are required to achieve compliance with the mod. Reflections in prisms can lead to polarization distortion. In order to compensate for these changes, the wave half-plate ( H ) and the wave quarter-plate ( Q ) are used. And φ is the phase plate. To implement the necessary operations, you need to adjust the angle of inclination θ 1 and θ 2 . For example, to convert the HG 10 beam to HG 01, the beam must be R (θ 1 ) rotated 45 degrees and the angle R (θ 2 ) set to 0.

    In the experiment, the researchers identified two main sources of possible errors: mode mismatch and incorrect installation of angles tilt.

    The so-called “causal witness” was the main indicator of the system's performance, a parameter that demonstrates the ability of events A and B to correspond to unitary operations A and B. Also, to determine this parameter, Stokes parameters were taken into account.

    Theoretical modeling of the system, prior to practical implementation, showed that ⟨S⟩ under ideal conditions would be approximately equal to 0.248. If we model the system, taking into account its real parameters, then -0.20 ≲ ⟨S⟩ ≲ -0.14.

    A practical experiment showed a good result: ⟨S⟩ = -0.171 ± 0.009, which fits into the expected range. Thus, scientists have concluded that their system works in an uncertain causal order. The foundation of this achievement, researchers called polarization, or rather the manipulation of it, which allowed to implement the system in this way.

    To get acquainted with the details of the experiment, I strongly recommend the report of scientists, available here .


    This study touched only the surface of some aspects of such a complex and confusing science as quantum mechanics. However, continuing to work in this direction, as scientists say, they will be able to achieve even more impressive results, which can change not only computing technologies, data transmission, etc., but also our vision of the world as a set of laws of the natural sciences that can lose their status. indestructible.

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