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February 22, 2006 11:41 AM   Subscribe

Sufficiently advanced quantum computer is indistinguishable from magic
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome (88 comments total)

 
1) Most boring magic, EVER.
2) It's not April 1st yet, but I still don't know that I'm not having my leg pulled by this article.
posted by jonson at 11:45 AM on February 22, 2006


I just proved this article wrong without actually making an argument against it.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:49 AM on February 22, 2006


I can see it now:
"Quantum computer works best unfinished"
"Quantum computer works best unstarted; Scientists begin construction on quantum time machine to go back in time and stop themselves"
"Quantum time machine project collapses time-space; It works even better this way"
posted by Plutor at 11:50 AM on February 22, 2006


Dang, I can't keep up with the pace of quantum computing research!

I'm still amazed by Grover's sub-O(n) search for unordered data sets.
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:52 AM on February 22, 2006


Something just passed right through me. The sun just exploded. I did my best for her.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 11:52 AM on February 22, 2006


I think it's more a case of a non-comprehending journalist can write a science article without understanding anything they're saying, or supposed to be talking about.

It sounds like some sort of quantum entanglement, but I don't get how you can say, from a metaphorical standpoint, that the computer "hasn't run".

Blah.
posted by delmoi at 11:54 AM on February 22, 2006


Does that make me a quantum user? I tend to comment without even RTFA.
posted by graventy at 11:54 AM on February 22, 2006


I made this comment without posting it
posted by bonaldi at 11:55 AM on February 22, 2006


Yet all the jokes not made here are still not funny.
posted by Gyan at 11:57 AM on February 22, 2006


delmoi: quantum computers have worked by altering particles that pass through them, but this one works by altering a particle that doesn't pass through it. So there's no "input" and nothing to run on. I think it's an OK analogy.

On the other hand, I have absolutely no idea what the fuck I'm talking about.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 11:58 AM on February 22, 2006


It seems that some of it is quantum entanglement and some of it is Heisenberg but applied with certainty, of course the article gives you no real nuggets of info which is a shame because usually new scientist is on top of such things.
posted by sourbrew at 11:59 AM on February 22, 2006


Zeno hates thetans.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:00 PM on February 22, 2006


Wait. What?

"They send a photon into a system of mirrors and other optical devices, which included a set of components that run a simple database search by changing the properties of the photon. The cutting-edge system functions by introducing a sub-gravitonious meson into a mirror chamber, where it shoots around like a pinball, knocking into borgons and other blargh laser duck, space fart. The computer then generates an answer to the database query sufficiently measured by the I wish I actually understood this assignment and these scientists are talking over my head.
Thank you, hotdog face, peanuts."

posted by Baby_Balrog at 12:00 PM on February 22, 2006


The article reads as if the author wrote it to come off in the most unbelievable way possible. I'm trying to find an article that does a better job explaining the experiment. It doesn't sound too far fetched when you consider the other bizarre properties of quantum computers.

Most of what a quantum computer does could be described as relying on events which never happened (depending upon your interpretation of QM).
posted by justkevin at 12:02 PM on February 22, 2006


So what was the answer? Or better yet, what was the question?
posted by sveskemus at 12:02 PM on February 22, 2006


Followed by sourbrew:

"It seems that some of it is quantum entanglement and some of it is Heisenberg but applied with certainty, thus enabling the tidal phason blaster thesis shloopidorgnog."
posted by Baby_Balrog at 12:02 PM on February 22, 2006


Here's the rub: if it altered the particle, you cannot say said computer hasn't effected the particle. Now if they say the particle hasn't entered the computer, thats wrong--obviously it has, although we are talking about almost simultaneous locality. Right?
posted by uni verse at 12:04 PM on February 22, 2006


Aha. What?

Was the answer 42?
posted by FeldBum at 12:04 PM on February 22, 2006


It's going to be awfully hard for me to play solitaire if I'm not even sure my computer is on.
posted by graventy at 12:05 PM on February 22, 2006


Has anyone got the nature article? Can they scan it in?
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 12:06 PM on February 22, 2006


*does not nod enthusiastically*
posted by dan g. at 12:07 PM on February 22, 2006


It's like they always say: Even a stopped computer is right 50 billion times a day.
posted by soyjoy at 12:10 PM on February 22, 2006


The article reads as if the author wrote it to come off in the most unbelievable way possible.

Isn't that how science journalism works?

if it altered the particle, you cannot say said computer hasn't effected the particle.

Sure I can. It may have affected it though.

posted by Aknaton at 12:11 PM on February 22, 2006


I dunno if you can access this:
Nature Atricle, if not let me know and I will think of something else
posted by ozomatli at 12:12 PM on February 22, 2006


Oh and calm down people, Quantum Computing in any meaningful way is a faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar way away.
posted by ozomatli at 12:14 PM on February 22, 2006


"So what was the answer? Or better yet, what was the question?"

The quantum computer can produce an answer even when no question has been asked.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:15 PM on February 22, 2006


*Reads the article.*

*Reads James Blish's short story "Beep."*

*Head explodes.*
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:16 PM on February 22, 2006


Non-technical summary from the same issue.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:18 PM on February 22, 2006


ozomatli: that don't work. Maybe just paste it all here?
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 12:18 PM on February 22, 2006


That also doesn't work.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 12:18 PM on February 22, 2006


Stop me if you've heard this one:
Two god particles walk into a bar . . .
posted by spock at 12:21 PM on February 22, 2006


Say, this quantum computer dealy sounds great. Does it run Microsoft Office?
posted by kcds at 12:25 PM on February 22, 2006


In Quantum Mechanics, Microsoft Office runs you.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:26 PM on February 22, 2006


"A non-running computer produces few errors".

Is there any way to translate that into "Working less produces more finished product"? Would that make me a Quantum Illustrator? Now THAT would make a great business card.
posted by slatternus at 12:31 PM on February 22, 2006


Yet all the jokes not made here are still not funny.
posted by Gyan at 11:57 AM PST on February 22 [!]


They were sort of funny until you read them.
posted by boo_radley at 12:32 PM on February 22, 2006


I was ready for this to be a story about the co-opting of technical mastery to dupe unwitting citizens (Heron) and this is what I get? What we have here, is failure to communicate. Protocols of the Elders of Confusing Articles, damn you!
posted by prostyle at 12:33 PM on February 22, 2006


But is the Schrodinger's Cat they stuffed in the computer alive or dead.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:34 PM on February 22, 2006


Yes.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:35 PM on February 22, 2006


a quantum joke is funnier when you don't actually tell it
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 12:36 PM on February 22, 2006


ozomatli's link worked for me. Even reading it I feel like my mind has been blown.
posted by OmieWise at 12:36 PM on February 22, 2006


yeah works for me now. sonofsamiam's doesn't however.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 12:38 PM on February 22, 2006


Yeah, the link worked for me too. At first, it read a bit like they were essentially creating afterimages of the program, then processing through the afterimages, but I'm not entirely clear how the Zeno effect fits in. Going to have to do some reading on that one.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:39 PM on February 22, 2006


"A non-running computer produces fewer errors," says Hosten

Isn't that the Slacker manifesto?
posted by HTuttle at 12:41 PM on February 22, 2006


At least now I know the thing that my kids will understand with no difficulty, but I will not be able to grasp.
posted by davejay at 12:42 PM on February 22, 2006


An observed photon behaves differently than an unobserved photon. This can only be proven by using instruments that aren't looking at the photon, or... If they are pointed to where the photon should be, aren't switched on.

See, I get it!
posted by Balisong at 12:43 PM on February 22, 2006


Son, are you done with your homework? Nope, I haven't even started it. Suck on that dad.
posted by Mr_Zero at 12:44 PM on February 22, 2006


I think the first article, while not particularly illuminating, is essentially correct. The author has fairly accurately described how the computer works, as described under the Copenhagen Interpretation.

Using different interpretations would have produced different (although still bizarre) articles.

MWI: Would say that while the photon did not enter the computer in this universe, it did so in other universes. One of those universes calculated the correct answer. Because the system was entangled, we were able to share the information.

Transactional Interpretation: Would say that the photon entered the computer, which continuously sent advanced and retarded waves backward and forward through time until the correct solution was found, then effectively erased the history of the photons passing through the computer while retaining the correct solution.

(Disclaimer: I am not a quantum mechanic.)
posted by justkevin at 12:48 PM on February 22, 2006


One of the obstacles to scaling up such model computers is that it is very hard to prevent quantum information from leaking away into the surroundings.

Ew.
posted by spacewaitress at 12:49 PM on February 22, 2006


Exactly, Balisong. It's like trying to find something you've lost. The surest way to find it is to stop looking for it. Think Osama bin Laden. Now that Bush has completely given up on looking for him, he's bound to turn up on next season's The Surreal Life.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:49 PM on February 22, 2006


I ordered a quantum mechanics tool set, but all they sent me was a bag of iron filings.
posted by Balisong at 12:52 PM on February 22, 2006


..the magic flirting photon, i like that. where is she?
posted by nearo at 12:54 PM on February 22, 2006


The researcher they interview, Onur Hosten, is part of the Kwiat Quantum Information Group, led by Paul G. Kwiat, Bardeen Professor of Physics and of Electrical and Computer Engineering in University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Kwait wrote The Tao of Quantum Interrogation, where he explains the Quantum Zeno Effect (mentioned in the FPP article) in a way a curious non-specialist can almost understand.
posted by nkyad at 12:54 PM on February 22, 2006


Hey, sweet! Thanks nkyad!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:57 PM on February 22, 2006


justkevin : "Disclaimer: I am not a quantum mechanic."

It should read "I am not a quantum mechanic but I am entangled with one in a parallel universe".
posted by nkyad at 1:04 PM on February 22, 2006


OH NO

I JUST ALMOST REMEMBERED I AM NOT WEARING MY QUANTUM UNDERWEAR TODAY
posted by jenovus at 1:10 PM on February 22, 2006


I despise the sloppy reporting in New Scientist so much.
posted by Coventry at 1:12 PM on February 22, 2006


Well then, you'll be happy about this.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:16 PM on February 22, 2006


science journalism is weird
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 1:17 PM on February 22, 2006


Thanks, jenovus you bastard. I just lost the game.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:21 PM on February 22, 2006


I had no idea!
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:26 PM on February 22, 2006


Is this the computer that allowed Dr. Sam Beckett to jump into the bodies of people in different decades?
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:36 PM on February 22, 2006


"They were sort of funny until you read them."

They were both funny and not funny until you read them. At which point they become not funny, including this one (we call that Quantum Irony).
posted by klangklangston at 2:08 PM on February 22, 2006


My Dada computer beats the hell out of this. It’s not even a computer. Plus I don’t know what it looks like. It can be a bottle rack or an upside down urinal. Also it’s position is flexible in time and space, it can show up when I least expect it.
The weird thing is, I get an answer without asking a question, usually through synaesthesia, but the answer is meaningless. But depending on how I interpret that meaningless, that is relevant.

...Schrödinger equation is ‘the Aristocrats’ of quantum physics.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:21 PM on February 22, 2006


Quantum computers suck ass. Quantum porn..


"It's a boob! It's not a boob! It's a boob! Maybe it's a boob...



Maybe I'm the boob...



Oh, it's just a fingerprint on the monitor."
posted by stenseng at 2:41 PM on February 22, 2006


WTF is up with New Scientist? I'm going to bet it's all paid for by a small wacko fringe group.
posted by Citizen Premier at 3:25 PM on February 22, 2006


They're so small that it's hard to be objective about them.
posted by WolfDaddy at 3:39 PM on February 22, 2006


Huh, first thread where it may actually be appropriate for me to post something, but I find I have nothing to say.

Fitting, really...
posted by quantumetric at 4:07 PM on February 22, 2006


Tomahawk missile is smart!
posted by sourwookie at 4:34 PM on February 22, 2006


For those of you on the network of a university that has a subscription to nature, you can find the full article here.

The summary, which I suspect I can get away with under fair use (numbers are bibliograhy references):

The logic underlying the coherent nature of quantum information processing often deviates from intuitive reasoning, leading to surprising effects. Counterfactual computation constitutes a striking example: the potential outcome of a quantum computation can be inferred, even if the computer is not run1. Relying on similar arguments to interaction-free measurements2 (or quantum interrogation3), counterfactual computation is accomplished by putting the computer in a superposition of 'running' and 'not running' states, and then interfering the two histories. Conditional on the as-yet-unknown outcome of the computation, it is sometimes possible to counterfactually infer information about the solution. Here we demonstrate counterfactual computation, implementing Grover's search algorithm with an all-optical approach4. It was believed that the overall probability of such counterfactual inference is intrinsically limited1, 5, so that it could not perform better on average than random guesses. However, using a novel 'chained' version of the quantum Zeno effect6, we show how to boost the counterfactual inference probability to unity, thereby beating the random guessing limit. Our methods are general and apply to any physical system, as illustrated by a discussion of trapped-ion systems. Finally, we briefly show that, in certain circumstances, counterfactual computation can eliminate errors induced by decoherence.
posted by fvw at 5:17 PM on February 22, 2006


As long as they play "Final Countdown" while performing the magic, I'm all for it.
posted by iamck at 5:31 PM on February 22, 2006


COME ON!!!
posted by stenseng at 5:45 PM on February 22, 2006


That's great, but can I do my taxes on it?
posted by inpHilltr8r at 6:28 PM on February 22, 2006


Headline: Quantum computer works best switched off

Don't they all?
posted by cenoxo at 6:41 PM on February 22, 2006


So much decoherence. So little counterfactual computation.
posted by TwelveTwo at 6:58 PM on February 22, 2006


Speaking of the Fonz, one of his lines from Arrested Development is appropriate here:

"You're lookin' at balls."
posted by Clamwacker at 7:36 PM on February 22, 2006


Aw crap, wrong thread. :(
posted by Clamwacker at 7:37 PM on February 22, 2006


And next up?

"Quantum Computer's Built-In Obsolescence Factor Spontaneously Conjures Apple IIe Out Of Thin Air."
posted by objet at 7:40 PM on February 22, 2006


I used to RULE on an apple IIe!
Between Locksmith 4.7 and my network of pimply faced friends, we conquered all the cool shit. Piracy Lives!!

Er.. On a quantum, I wouldn't even need to download any software, since I never need to turn it on.
posted by Balisong at 7:48 PM on February 22, 2006


I'd like in beige.
posted by Tarn at 8:04 PM on February 22, 2006


I'd like one in beige.
posted by Tarn at 8:05 PM on February 22, 2006


This is eerily like the invention of the Infinite Improbility Drive.

/ life imitates art
posted by PsychoKick at 1:02 AM on February 23, 2006


Computer: Beige.

Me: What? What are you talking about?

Computer: The answer is beige.

Me: I'm seriously going to have to take you back.

Computer: I said, beige.

Me: Oh, never mind. I was going to ask, what colour shirt should I.... oh.
posted by malusmoriendumest at 2:03 AM on February 23, 2006


Aw crap, wrong thread. :(

Give me a breaksville.
posted by sonofsamiam at 5:05 AM on February 23, 2006


Of course the computer was "running" -- at least, as I define "running".

What we have here is a rhetorical formulation designed to make it look as though there's a conundrum ("works when it's not running"), when there reall isn't.

What the theory really says is that the "machine" is actually "running" even when you think it isn't.
posted by lodurr at 5:17 AM on February 23, 2006


How exactly, are people posting in the wrong thread?
posted by bshort at 8:12 AM on February 23, 2006


I live just a few blocks away from where they are doing this research. Maybe some of my university fees should be diverted to robot insurance?
posted by Mr Mister at 12:07 PM on February 23, 2006


Q: Is your computer running?
A: I honestly don't know.
Q: Well then you'd better do a complete inventory of all possible universes in which it might be, and in those in which it is, go catch it.
posted by soyjoy at 7:25 AM on February 24, 2006


soyjoy - I absolutely love that joke!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:50 AM on February 24, 2006


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