October 2022

Witnessing the non-objectivity of an unknown quantum dynamics

Quantum Darwinism offers an explanation for the emergence of classical objective features — those we are used to at macroscopic scales — from quantum properties at the microscopic level. The interaction of a quantum system with its surroundings redundantly proliferates information to many parts of the environment, turning it accessible and objective to different observers. But given that one cannot probe the quantum system directly, only its environment, how to witness whether an unknown quantum property can be deemed objective or not? Here we propose a probabilistic framework to analyze this question and show that objectivity implies a Bell-like inequality. Among several other results, we show quantum violations of this inequality, a device-independent proof of the non-objectivity of quantum correlations that give rise to the phenomenon we name “collective hallucination”: observers probing distinct parts of the environment can agree upon their measurement outcome of a given observable but such outcome can be totally uncorrelated from the property of the quantum system that fixed observable should be probing. We also implement an appealing photonic experiment where the temporal degree of freedom of photons is the quantum system of interest, while their polarization acts as the environment. Employing a fully black-box approach, we achieve the violation of a Bell inequality, thus certifying the non-objectivity of the underlying quantum dynamics in a fully device-independent framework.

Quantum Euler angles and agency-dependent spacetime

Quantum gravity is expected to introduce quantum aspects into the description of reference frames. Here we set the stage for exploring how quantum gravity induced deformations of classical symmetries could modify the transformation laws among reference frames in an effective regime. We invoke the quantum group $SU_q(2)$ as a description of deformed spatial rotations and interpret states of a representation of its algebra as describing the relative orientation between two reference frames. This leads to a quantization of one of the Euler angles and to the new paradigm of agency-dependence: space is reconstructed as a collection of fuzzy points, exclusive to each agent, which depends on their choice of reference frame. Each agent can choose only one direction in which points can be sharp, while points in all other directions become fuzzy in a way that depends on this choice. Two agents making different choices will thus observe the same points with different degrees of fuzziness.

poster for Alexander Blum's virtual seminar, John Wheeler and Quantum Gravity, 7 december 2022, 4pm CET

Alexander Blum
Max Planck Institute for the History of ScienceJohn Wheeler and Quantum Gravity

John Wheeler was the inventor of quantum gravity – not as a formal program for uniting general relativity and quantum mechanics, but as the potential key to a theory of everything. In this talk, I will show how he first imbued quantum gravity with this new role in the 1950s and then how (and why) …

Alexander Blum
Max Planck Institute for the History of ScienceJohn Wheeler and Quantum Gravity
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Unpredictability is perfectly possible in a deterministic universe

We revisit the vexed question of how unpredictability can arise in a deterministic universe, focusing on unitary quantum theory. We discuss why quantum unpredictability is irrelevant for the possibility of what some people call `free-will’, and why existing `free-will’ arguments are themselves irrelevant to argue for or against a physical theory.

Constructive Axiomatics in Spacetime Physics Part II: Constructive Axiomatics in Context

The Ehlers-Pirani-Schild (EPS) constructive axiomatisation of general relativity, published in 1972, purports to build up the kinematical structure of that theory from only axioms which have indubitable empirical content. It is, therefore, of profound significance both to the epistemology and to the metaphysics of spacetime theories. In this article, we set the EPS approach in its proper context, by (a) discussing the history of constructive approaches to spacetime theories in the lead-up to EPS; (b) addressing some of the major concerns raised against EPS; (c) considering how EPS compares with ‘chronometric’ approaches to affording the metric field of general relativity its operational significance; (d) distinguishing quite generally between different kinds of constructive approach, and fitting EPS into this classification; (e) discussing how constructivism bears on a number of other issues in the foundations of physics; and (f) assessing the merits of constructivism qua local foundationalist project. There are two companion papers, in which we provide a pedagogical walkthrough to the EPS axiomatisation (Part I), and discuss/develop versions of EPS with quantum mechanical inputs (Part III).

Experimental demonstration of input-output indefiniteness in a single quantum device

At the fundamental level, the dynamics of quantum fields is invariant under the combination of time reversal, charge conjugation, and parity inversion. This symmetry implies that a broad class of effective quantum evolutions are bidirectional, meaning that the exchange of their inputs and outputs gives rise to valid quantum evolutions. Recently, it has been observed that quantum theory is theoretically compatible with a family of operations in which the roles of the inputs and outputs is indefinite. However, such operations have not been demonstrated in the laboratory so far. Here we experimentally demonstrate input-output indefiniteness in a photonic setup, demonstrating an advantage in a quantum game and showing incompatibility with a definite input-output direction by more than 69 standard deviations. Our results establish input-output indefiniteness as a new resource for quantum information protocols, and enable the table-top simulation of hypothetical scenarios where the arrow of time could be in a quantum superposition.

Experimental nonclassicality in a causal network without assuming freedom of choice

In a Bell experiment, it is natural to seek a causal account of correlations wherein only a common cause acts on the outcomes. For this causal structure, Bell inequality violations can be explained only if causal dependencies are modelled as intrinsically quantum. There also exists a vast landscape of causal structures beyond Bell that can witness nonclassicality, in some cases without even requiring free external inputs. Here, we undertake a photonic experiment realizing one such example: the triangle causal network, consisting of three measurement stations pairwise connected by common causes and no external inputs. To demonstrate the nonclassicality of the data, we adapt and improve three known techniques: (i) a machine-learning-based heuristic test, (ii) a data-seeded inflation technique generating polynomial Bell-type inequalities and (iii) entropic inequalities. The demonstrated experimental and data analysis tools are broadly applicable paving the way for future networks of growing complexity.