Physicists manage to 'turn back time' in experiment

14 Mars, 2019, 19:22 | Auteur: Therese Cote

The research includes Lead researcher Dr Gordey Lesovik, head of the Laboratory of the Physics of Quantum Information at the Moscow Institute of Physics & Technology (MIPT) who was helped by colleagues in Switzerland and the US.

Although scientists have yet to replicate the futuristic scenes of The Jetsons or the 1985 sci-fi classic Back to the Future, researchers from Moscow's Institute of Physics and Technology partnered with scientists in the US and Switzerland to "experimentally demonstrate time reversal - sending a qubit from a more complicated state to a simpler one", writes Newsweek.

But the universe does have one rule that goes only in one way: the second law of thermodynamics, which describes the progression from order to disorder.

Most laws of physics do not make a distinction between the past and future, but the scientists claim that their experiment, which involved "reversing time", showed that these laws can be violated. "We have artificially created a state that evolves in a direction opposite to that of the thermodynamic arrow of time".

Study co-author Andrey Lebedev from MIPT and ETH Zurich said, "Suppose the electron is localized when we begin observing it. This is practically equivalent to the increasing disorder in a large scale system, for example, a billiard table-because of the second law of thermodynamics". Each of the three systems initially evolves from order toward chaos, but then a perfectly timed external disturbance reverses this process. If two identical round objects collide one to another, an equation can describe the event exactly the same even if it is played backward, but it is tough for the human mind to imagine an infused tea flowing back into the tea bag, or a volcano erupting in reverse. "Mathematically, it means that under a certain transformation, called complex conjugation, the equation will describe a "smeared" electron localizing back into a small region of space over the same time period".

To an outside observer, it looks as if time is running backwards. "The laws of quantum mechanics prevent us from knowing it with absolute precision, but we can outline a small region where the electron is localized".

Next, scientists attempted to manufacture a violation of the second law of thermodynamics.

Other quantum computing experts said: "I don't know how useful this is...it doesn't mean these guys made a time machine". But unlike regular computer bits, qubits can also take a form called superposition, where they are both one and zero at the same time.

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The experiment could have a practical application in the development of quantum computers, the scientists said.

The so-called "time machine" is made up of electron qubits.

Another program then modified the state of the quantum computer in such a way that it evolved "backwards", from chaos to order. Scientists used an evolution program on the quantum computer to trigger the degradation of order, causing the qubits to begin assuming an increasingly complex pattern of zeros and ones, like an electron getting smeared out across a larger and larger region of space.

The scientists had an 85 percent success rate and only in the case of a two-qubit quantum computer.

However, the success rate plunged to 50 percent when three qubits were present. The scientists said the error rate is anticipated to drop as more devices are designed.

"Another fundamental question is whether it is possible at all to design a quantum algorithm that would perform time-reversal more efficiently".

"Our algorithm could be updated and used to test programmes written for quantum computers and eliminate noise and errors", said Dr Lesovik.

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