“A mind-bending technology goes mainstream”

“A mind-bending technology goes mainstream”

The Economist devoted its Technology Quarterly of March 11 2017 to Quantum Devices: “A mind-bending technology goes mainstream”.

Elements from this magazine article are of interest to quantum farmers.

Revealed by a few surprising discoveries, such as that atoms absorb and emit energy only in packets of discrete sizes (quanta), and that light and matter can act as both waves and particles, it is modern physics’ greatest triumph. … Not only can particles be in two stages at once, as with the atoms in an atomic clock; sometimes two of them, separated by a great distance, seemingly sense something about each other’s condition, a situation called entanglement. A particle’s exact position or state is never certain until a measurement is made; there are only higher or lower likelihood’s of a given outcome, and the measurement changes the situation irrevocably. …. Quantum computers may eventually crunch through currently unapproachable problems, improving the transmission of electric power or investigating the nitrogenase reaction in the manufacture of energy-intensive fertilizer, or simply sifting through impracticably large data sets.”

“Much work remains to be done. Although a handful of quantum-enabled sensors, modest quantum networks and rudimentary quantum computers are already in use, they still fall short of fully exploiting quantum advantages … In 2015 about 7000 people worldwide, with a combined budget of 1,5 billion USD, were working on quantum-technology research. Industrialization will boost these numbers.  What is notable about the effort is that the challenges are no longer scientific but have become matters of engineering.”

Quantum technology’s supersensitivity makes it great for measuring (pp 4-6). This paper describes the potentials of the very precise and sensitive atomic clocks. …. Most designs work by tapping into the energy levels of atoms that are prodded with microwaves. … An improved design “entangles” these microwave levels that correspond to visible light, which has a much higher frequency. Such entanglement … links the fates of two atoms, temporarily but inextricably, so that experiments on one yield information about the other. Such a clock could measure height very precisely. It could as well , at fixed height, sense the gravitational attraction of what is below; solid bedrock would give a different reading from on oil-and-gas pocket. Military are interested as well. Improved gravity sensors would be able to spot moving masses under water. … And a good gravimeter is a good accelerometer is a good vibration sensor. Of great interest to carmakers, and in particular to the autonomous-vehicle industry. … Mr Bolle, head of Bosch R&D believes sensors will be quantum technology’s first market success.

Bosch is also interested in sensors based on “nitrogen vacancies” – places where a diamond’s all-carbon network has been disrupted by one nitrogen atom next to a missing carbon atom. Mostly isolated by its rigid cage of carbon neighbors from the bumpy, fluctuating world outside, electrons from the nitrogen atoms can be easily manipulated and measured, placed in superpositions and even entangled with one another. These systems are extraordinarily responsive to their environment and can act as precise sensors of pressure, temperature and electric current. They have shown most promise in measuring magnetic fields. Recent studies show that nitrogen vacancies can detect the on-and-off magnetic field of single nerve cells. The same principles can work inside the human body, too. [HK and work inside animals and plants as well.] Nanoscale diamonds with nitrogen vacancies have been used to spot chemical changes in living cells. Researchers from the Institute of Theoretical Physics and the Institute of Quantum Physics in Ulm, Germany, have formed NVision, a startup to match the current best magnetically enhanced MRI techniques, but 40 times faster and at a quarter of the cost. ”

In their ‘Brain scan’ the magazine quotes the father of quantum computing Dr. David Deutsch, University of Oxford: he sees it as a fundamentally new way of harnessing nature. Mr Deutsch has long maintained that a quantum computer would serve as proof positive of universes beyond the known: the “many-worlds interpretation“. This controversial hypothesis suggests that every time an event can have multiple quantum outcomes, all of them occur, each “made real” in its own, separate world. At the same time, quantum computation, and the quantum-mechanical theory from which it springs, are all subsumed in a newer idea that dr. Deutsch is pursuing. He contends that what he calls his “constructor theory” provides a perspective that will lead to the rewriting of physics altogether. As with classical computer science, quantum computation and even genetics, it is based on the role of information. But rather than letting physical laws define what is and is not possible, as science does now, constructor theory asserts that those laws actually arise from what is and is not possible. From observed possibilities, a mathematical object called a constructor can be fashioned. Operating with and on these constructors gives rise to what dr. Deutsch reckons is a theory even more fundamental than quantum mechanics.  He is enthusiastic about the theory’s potential to upend the very foundations of science. …”

In the article on quantum computers -at p 11- it is noted that “Companies such as QxBranch and 1Qbit play a new role of middleman between the quantum experts and industry, examining whether and how a given firm’s business might be improved by quantum methods, for example optimizing trading strategies or supply chains, or monitoring network activity to spot cyber-attacks.” This middelman role fits with the aim of this website GaiaCampus: make the quantum-potential accessible and available for farmers, gardeners and researchers for a more sustainable food production.

 

Henk Kieft

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