Emergence of Riemannian Quantum Geometry

In this chapter we take up the quantum Riemannian geometry of a spatial slice of spacetime. While researchers are still facing the challenge of observing quantum gravity, there is a geometrical core to loop quantum gravity that does much to define the approach. This core is the quantum character of its geometrical observables: space and spacetime are built up out of Planck-scale quantum grains. The interrelations between these grains are described by spin networks, graphs whose edges capture the bounding areas of the interconnected nodes, which encode the extent of each grain. We explain how quantum Riemannian geometry emerges from two different approaches: in the first half of the chapter we take the perspective of continuum geometry and explain how quantum geometry emerges from a few principles, such as the general rules of canonical quantization of field theories, a classical formulation of general relativity in which it appears embedded in the phase space of Yang-Mills theory, and general covariance. In the second half of the chapter we show that quantum geometry also emerges from the direct quantization of the finite number of degrees of freedom of the gravitational field encoded in discrete geometries. These two approaches are complimentary and are offered to assist readers with different backgrounds enter the compelling arena of quantum Riemannian geometry.

Quantum mechanics and Alexander Bogdanov’s worldview: A conversation

This paper is a transcript of the dialogue between Carlo Rovelli and Mike Jackson after Rovelli’s delivery of the 2021 Annual Mike Jackson Lecture, hosted by the Centre for Systems Studies at the University of Hull. The dialogue covers a range of topics, including how Rovelli developed a sense of curiosity in his youth; the connection between his interests in science and politics; the pathology of disciplinary divisions in academia; the value of Bogdanov’s transdisciplinarity; Rovelli’s theory of quantum gravity; the notions of granularity, indeterminism and relationality underpinning quantum mechanics; the role of the observer; mistaken uses of quantum mechanics; relational and network views of the world; how the discipline of Physics is becoming more systemic; the concept of levels of analysis in relation to nature and human inquiry; and the future for humanity.

Summing bulk quantum numbers with Monte Carlo in spin foam theories

We introduce a strategy to compute EPRL spin foam amplitudes with many internal faces numerically. We work with texttt{sl2cfoam-next}, the state-of-the-art framework to numerically evaluate spin foam transition amplitudes. We find that uniform sampling Monte Carlo is exceptionally effective in approximating the sum over internal quantum numbers of a spin foam amplitude, considerably reducing the computational resources necessary. We apply it to compute large volume divergences of the theory and find surprising numerical evidence that the EPRL vertex renormalization amplitude is instead finite.

The Temporal Asymmetry of Influence is Not Statistical

We argue that the temporal asymmetry of influence is not merely the result of thermodynamics: it is a consequence of the fact that modal structure of the universe must admit only processes which cannot give rise to contradictions. We appeal to the process matrix formalism developed in the field of quantum foundations to characterise processes which are compatible with local free will whilst ruling out contradictions, and argue that this gives rise to ‘consistent chaining’ requirements that explain the temporal asymmetry of influence. We compare this view to the perspectival account of causation advocated by Price and Ramsey.

On the Inevitable Lightness of Vacuum

In this essay, we present a new understanding of the cosmological constant problem, built upon the realization that the vacuum energy density can be expressed in terms of a phase space volume. We introduce a UV-IR regularization which implies a relationship between the vacuum energy and entropy. Combining this insight with the holographic bound on entropy then yields a bound on the cosmological constant consistent with observations. It follows that the universe is large, and the cosmological constant is naturally small, because the universe is filled with a large number of degrees of freedom.

Experimental super-Heisenberg quantum metrology with indefinite gate order

The precision of quantum metrology is widely believed to be restricted by the Heisenberg limit, corresponding to a root mean square error that is inversely proportional to the number of independent processes probed in an experiment, N. In the past, some proposals have challenged this belief, for example using non-linear interactions among the probes. However, these proposals turned out to still obey the Heisenberg limit with respect to other relevant resources, such as the total energy of the probes. Here, we present a photonic implementation of a quantum metrology protocol surpassing the Heisenberg limit by probing two groups of independent processes in a superposition of two alternative causal orders. Each process creates a phase space displacement, and our setup is able to estimate a geometric phase associated to two sets of N displacements with an error that falls quadratically with N. Our results only require a single-photon probe with an initial energy that is independent of N. Using a superposition of causal orders outperforms every setup where the displacements are probed in a definite order. Our experiment features the demonstration of indefinite causal order in a continuous-variable system, and opens up the experimental investigation of quantum metrology setups boosted by indefinite causal order.

Observers in superposition and the no-signaling principle

The Wigner’s friend experiment is a thought experiment in which a so-called superobserver (Wigner) observes another observer (the friend) who has performed a quantum measurement on a physical system. In this setup Wigner treats the friend the system and potentially other degrees of freedom involved in the friend’s measurement as one joint quantum system. In general, Wigner’s measurement changes the internal record of the friend’s measurement result such that after the measurement by the superobserver the result stored in the observer’s memory register is no longer the same as the result the friend obtained at her measurement, i.e. before she was measured by Wigner. Here, we show that any awareness by the friend of such a change, which can be modeled by an additional memory register storing the information about the change, conflicts with the no-signaling condition in extended Wigner-friend scenarios.

Linear Ultrastrong Optomechanical Interaction

Light-matter interaction in the ultrastrong coupling regime can be used to generate exotic ground states with two-mode squeezing and may be of use for quantum enhanced sensing. Current demonstrations of ultrastrong coupling have been performed in fundamentally nonlinear systems. We report a cavity optomechanical system that operates in the linear coupling regime, reaching a maximum coupling of $g_x/Omega_x=0.55pm 0.02$. Such a system is inherently unstable, which may in the future enable strong mechanical squeezing.

Relational superposition measurements with a material quantum ruler

In physics, it is crucial to identify operational measurement procedures to give physical meaning to abstract quantities. There has been significant effort to define time operationally using quantum systems, but the same has not been achieved for space. Developing an operational procedure to obtain information about the location of a quantum system is particularly important for a theory combining general relativity and quantum theory, which cannot rest on the classical notion of spacetime. Here, we take a first step towards this goal, and introduce a model to describe an extended material quantum system working as a position measurement device. Such a “quantum ruler” is composed of N harmonically interacting dipoles and serves as a (quantum) reference system for the position of another quantum system. We show that we can define a quantum measurement procedure corresponding to the “superposition of positions”, and that by performing this measurement we can distinguish when the quantum system is in a coherent or incoherent superposition in the position basis. The model is fully relational, because the only meaningful variables are the relative positions between the ruler and the system, and the measurement is expressed in terms of an interaction between the measurement device and the measured system.

Paradox with Phase-Coupled Interferometers

A pair of interferometers can be coupled by allowing one path from each to overlap such that if the particles meet in this overlap region, they annihilate. It was shown by one of us over thirty years ago that such annihilation-coupled interferometers can exhibit apparently paradoxical behaviour. More recently, Bose et al. and Marletto and Vedral have considered a pair of interferometers that are phase-coupled (where the coupling is through gravitational interaction). In this case one path from each interferometer undergoes a phase-coupling interaction. We show that these phase-coupled interferometers exhibit the same apparent paradox as the annihilation-coupled interferometers, though in a curiously dual manner.