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Winner of The Quantum Shorts 2013: The Knight of Infinity

Credit: Timothy Yeo / CQT, National University of Singapore

Quantum mechanics—operating at atom-size scales—is so odd in so many ways that even Einstein despairingly said of it that “God does not play dice with the world.” Now this stranger-than-fiction discipline has inspired some first-class narrative thrills, including the winner of The Quantum Shorts 2013 competition in the International category, decided by the judges, and [...]

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Cross-Check

Is David Deutsch’s Vision of Endless Understanding Delusional?

book jacket for "The Beginning of Infinity"

I’m a believer in wishful thinking, in the power of our hopes to become self-fulfilling. I even believe that war is going to end! But at some point, if wishful thinking diverges too sharply from what we can reasonably expect from reality, it morphs into denial or delusion. David Deutsch’s hope that science will keep [...]

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Observations

The Blurry Line between Small and Quantum Small

The late physicist Erwin Schrodinger was probably relieved to know that flesh and blood cats are too big to behave according to the laws of quantum physics. His intellectual heirs, however, no longer have that luxury. The line between the large and the small is not so clear cut as it was in Schrodinger’s day. [...]

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Observations

Quantum Teleportation Achieved over Record Distances

Telescope used in teleportation experiments

Two teams of researchers have extended the reach of quantum teleportation to unprecedented lengths, roughly equivalent to the distance between New York City and Philadelphia. But don’t expect teleportation stations to replace airports or train terminals—the teleportation scheme shifts only the quantum state of a single photon. And although part of the transfer happens instantaneously, [...]

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Observations

Which of the Basic Assumptions of Modern Physics are Wrong? Announcing the 4th Foundational Questions Institute Essay Contest

FQXI logo

There’s something unnerving about unifying physics. The two theories that need to be unified, quantum field theory and Einstein’s general theory of relativity, are both highly successful. Both make predictions good to as many decimal places as experimentalists can manage. Both are grounded in compelling principles. Both do have flaws — including an unfortunate tendency to [...]

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Observations

Where Do Space and Time Come From? New Theory Offers Answers, If Only Physicists Can Figure It Out

SANTA BARBARA—”Maybe we’re just too dumb,” Nobel laureate physicist David Gross mused in a lecture at Caltech two weeks ago. When someone of his level wonders whether the unification of physics will always be beyond mortal minds, it gets you worried. (He went on to explain why he doesn’t think we are too dumb, though.) [...]

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Observations

The Emperor, Darth Vader and the Ultimate Ultimate Theory of Physics

PASADENA—The theory is so obscure there’s not a Wikipedia page about it yet. It might be impossible to formulate mathematically. One theoretical physicist calls it the Emperor Palpatine of theories, even more powerful and inscrutable than the Darth Vader theory that he and others have been studying intensively. And yet it has a purity and [...]

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Observations

Could Simple Experiments Reveal the Quantum Nature of Spacetime?

Conventional wisdom has it that putting the words “quantum gravity” and “experiment” in the same sentence is like bringing matter into contact with antimatter. All you get is a big explosion; the two just don’t go together. The distinctively quantum features of gravity only show up in extreme settings such as the belly of a [...]

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Observations

George and John’s Excellent Adventures in Quantum Entanglement [Video]

Simply put, bottomlessly deep: that is the definition of a great discovery in science. From the principle of relativity to evolution by natural selection, the concepts that govern our world are actually not that hard to state. What they mean and what they imply—well, that’s another matter. And so it is with quantum entanglement. One [...]

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Observations

Quantum Cheshire Cat: Even Weirder Than Schrödinger’s

Just when you thought you’d heard every quantum mystery that was possible, out pops another one. Jeff Tollaksen mentioned it in passing during his talk at the recent Foundation Questions Institute conference. Probably Tollaksen assumed we’d all heard it before. After all, his graduate advisor, Yakir Aharonov—who has made an illustrious career of poking the [...]

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Observations

Free Will and Quantum Clones: How Your Choices Today Affect the Universe at its Origin

The late philosopher Robert Nozick, talking about the deep question of why there is something rather than nothing, quipped: “Someone who proposes a non-strange answer shows he didn’t understand the question.” So, when Scott Aaronson began a talk three weeks ago by saying it would be “the looniest talk I’ve ever given,” it was a [...]

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Observations

Crystal memory allows efficient storage of quantum information in light

Rare-earth doped crystal for efficient quantum memory

Light makes for a terrific carrier of information—witness the prevalence of fiber optics in telecommunications—and the realm of quantum communication is no different. Photons are key quantum objects that can carry information over large distances and that can be entangled in relatively large numbers. But photons are a hyperactive lot, zipping around at light speed, [...]

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