Quantum physics for hippies

While regularly checking my SPAM filter last year, I came across a news mail that surprised me. I knew that research was being done in the field, but this message showed it in a completely different light:
Fraunhofer and IBM present live: Quantum Computing in Germany
Inauguration of Europe’s most powerful quantum computer in an industrial context 15th June 2021 – 14:00

While I was still in the process of clearing the SPAM filter, the realisation hit me that I hadn’t the slightest idea of how quantum computers work. As a result, I bought some books and read posts about it. But just as a basic understanding of the electron is needed to understand how the current generation of computers work with transistors (or formerly valves), a basic understanding of quanta and quantum physics is needed to understand a quantum computer.

This, in turn, is much more difficult than I originally anticipated. After all, if you’re a computer scientist who deals with logic and programming on a daily basis, you ought to have the best prerequisites for understanding the “illogical” and spooky phenomena of quanta. Ergo, I looked for ways to ease my way into this subject and came across the book “Quantum Physics for Hippies”. I never found hippies particularly tech-savvy, so I thought, “If they can understand this, I’m sure I’ll understand it.” So give us the book.

For me, hippies were always blissful people in colourful clothes, preferably with longer hair – and an inclination towards dope and esotericism. Even though I never moved in the “flower power” scene myself, I pay my respect to this movement. In the stoned haze of the hippies in Berkley/San Francisco discussing the injustices of our world, the young people of the time became aware of and thus could relate to them for the first time. Women’s rights, homosexuality, peace, free love and the legalisation of hashish are issues that first came to the attention of the media and thus the public in the 70s through the hippie movement.

This led to worldwide student unrest, the de-criminalization of homosexuality, the birth of the peace movement and the founding of Greenpeace and Doctors Without Borders. The memories from my youth are certainly not an objective benchmark, but they provide the explanation of why I was so amazed by the title of this book.

After reading it, I have not changed my opinion of hippies – still too many drugs and too esoteric. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book and it gave me access to some complex aspects of quantum physics. Below I present a few excerpts from the book. However, one should not expect a pragmatic understanding, as after reading a textbook. If Einstein and his colleagues could hardly believe it 1

Me: “But what is the substance of an electron wave?”
Alice: “Its substance is possibilities. It’s a wave of possibilities.”
” Possibilities? The world is made out of possibilities?”

Yet many scientists still do not agree that a quantum computer uses parallel universes to get this incredible advantage.

History has shown that reality doesn’t give a shit about what we humans find absurd.

Schrödinger’s equation predicts these so-called decoherence times with creepy precision… There are many things that the equations of physics predicted that people thought were crazy. Things that most scientists could not believe at the time, and sometimes for a very long time afterward…

Schrödinger equation is something like a super-equation. Its solutions are not simple numbers, but instead an infinite number of additional equations. The deeper you go, the broader your predictions become. And the deep mathematical structure of the universe is surprisingly simple.

A quantum superposition is anything that is in a state of two exclusive possibilities at once. For example, we can put an atom in two different places at the same time, or make an electron spin both clockwise and counter-clockwise, or get a photon to fly in two different directions simultaneously.

Me: “Intuition? What does intuition got to do with science?”
Alice: “How do you think Schrödinger came up with his equation?”
Me: “I have no idea.”
Alice: “He guessed it. Granted, a very educated guess, but still, in the end, it was just a really good guess.”

“Consciousness cannot be accounted for in physical terms. For consciousness is absolutely fundamental. It cannot be accounted for in terms of anything else.” – Erwin Schrödinger

Me: “So science automatically happens if humans properly combine intuition and rationality?”
Alice: “That’s right. The process made by combining the two creates a trustable belief system. So trustable that we used it to fly to the damn moon. And soon to Mars.

Original text: UTO
English translation: BCO

  1. Why did Einstein oppose quantum uncertainity?

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