Authors: Esteban Castro-Ruiz, Flaminia Giacomini and Časlav Brukner
In the last few years, there has been increasing interest in quantum processes with indefinite causal order. Process matrices are a convenient framework to study such processes. Ref.  defines higher order transformations from process matrices to process matrices and shows that no continuous and reversible transformation can change the causal order of a process matrix. Ref.  argues, based on a set of examples, that there are situations where a process can change its causal order over time. Ref.  claims that the formalism of higher order transformations is not general enough to capture its examples. Here we show that this claim is incorrect. Moreover, a crucial example of Ref.  has already been explicitly considered in Ref.  and shown to be compatible with its results.
Authors: Lucas F. Streiter, Flaminia Giacomini and Časlav Brukner
A still widely debated question in the field of relativistic quantum information is whether entanglement and the degree of violation of Bell’s inequalities for massive relativistic particles are frame independent or not. At the core of this question is the effect that spin gets entangled with the momentum degree of freedom at relativistic velocities. Here, we show that Bell’s inequalities for a pair of particles can be maximally violated in a special-relativistic regime, even without any post-selection of the momentum of the particles. To this end, we use the methodology of quantum reference frames, which allows us to transform the problem to the rest frame of a particle, whose state can be in a superposition of relativistic momenta from the viewpoint of the laboratory frame. We show that, when the relative motion of two particles is non-collinear, the optimal measurements for violation of Bell’s inequalities in the laboratory frame involve “coherent Wigner rotations”. Moreover, the degree of violation of Bell’s inequalities is independent of the choice of the quantum reference frame. Our results open up the possibility of extending entanglement-based quantum communication protocols to relativistic regimes.
Authors: Giulia Rubino, Gonzalo Manzano and Časlav Brukner
A priori, there exists no preferential temporal direction as microscopic physical laws are time-symmetric. Still, the second law of thermodynamics allows one to associate the `forward’ temporal direction to a positive entropy variation in a thermodynamic process, and a negative variation with its `time-reversal’ counterpart. This definition of a temporal axis is normally considered to apply in both classical and quantum contexts. Yet, quantum physics admits also superpositions between forward and time-reversal processes, thereby seemingly eluding conventional definitions of time’s arrow. In this work, we demonstrate that a quantum measurement of entropy can distinguish the two temporal directions, effectively projecting such superpositions of thermodynamic processes onto the forward (time-reversal) time-direction when large positive (negative) values are measured. Remarkably, for small values (of the order of plus or minus one), the amplitudes of forward and time-reversal processes can interfere, giving rise to entropy distributions featuring a more or less reversible process than either of the two components individually, or any classical mixture thereof. Finally, we extend these concepts to the case of a thermal machine running in a superposition of the heat engine and the refrigerator mode, illustrating how such interference effects can be employed to reduce undesirable fluctuations.
Authors: Časlav Brukner
The discussion of the quantum mechanical Wigner’s friend thought experiment has regained intensity. Recent theoretical results and experimental tests restrict the possibility of maintaining an observer-independent notion of measurement outcomes.
Authors: Luis C. Barbado, Esteban Castro-Ruiz, Luca Apadula and Časlav Brukner
The Unruh effect is the phenomenon that accelerated observers detect particles even when inertial observers experience the vacuum state. In particular, uniformly accelerated observers are predicted to measure thermal radiation that is proportional to the acceleration. Here we consider the Unruh effect for a detector that follows a quantum superposition of different accelerated trajectories in Minkowski spacetime. More precisely, we analyse the excitations of a pointlike multilevel particle detector coupled to a massless real scalar field and moving in the superposition of accelerated trajectories. We find that the state of the detector excitations is, in general, not a mere (convex) mixture of the thermal spectrum characteristics of the Unruh effect for each trajectory with well-defined acceleration separately. Rather, for certain trajectories and excitation levels, and upon the measurement of the trajectory state, the state of the detector excitations features in addition off-diagonal terms. The off-diagonal terms of these “superpositions of thermal states” are related to the distinguishability of the different possible states in which the field is left after its interaction with detector’s internal degrees of the freedom.
Authors: Esteban Castro-Ruiz, Flaminia Giacomini, Alessio Belenchia and Časlav Brukner
The standard formulation of quantum theory relies on a fixed space-time metric determining the localisation and causal order of events. In general relativity, the metric is influenced by matter, and is expected to become indefinite when matter behaves quantum mechanically. Here, we develop a framework to operationally define events and their localisation with respect to a quantum clock reference frame, also in the presence of gravitating quantum systems. We find that, when clocks interact gravitationally, the time localisability of events becomes relative, depending on the reference frame. This relativity is a signature of an indefinite metric, where events can occur in an indefinite causal order. Even if the metric is indefinite, for any event we can find a reference frame where local quantum operations take their standard unitary dilation form. This form is preserved when changing clock reference frames, yielding physics covariant with respect to quantum reference frame transformations.
Authors: Flaminia Giacomini and Časlav Brukner
The Principle of Equivalence, stating that all laws of physics take their special-relativistic form in any local inertial frame, lies at the core of General Relativity. Because of its fundamental status, this principle could be a very powerful guide in formulating physical laws at regimes where both gravitational and quantum effects are relevant. However, its formulation implicitly presupposes that reference frames are abstracted from classical systems (rods and clocks) and that the spacetime background is well defined. It is unclear if it continues to hold when quantum systems, which can be in a quantum relationship with other physical systems, are taken as reference frames, and in a superposition of classical spacetime structures. Here, we tackle both questions by introducing a relational formalism to describe quantum systems in a superposition of curved spacetimes. We build a unitary transformation to the quantum reference frame (QRF) of a quantum system in curved spacetime, and in a superposition thereof. In both cases, a QRF can be found such that the metric looks locally minkowskian. Hence, one cannot distinguish, with a local measurement, if the spacetime is flat or curved, or in a superposition of such spacetimes. This transformation identifies a Quantum Local Inertial Frame. We also find a spacetime path-integral encoding the dynamics of a quantum particle in spacetime and show that the state of a freely falling particle can be expressed as an infinite sum of all possible classical geodesics. We then build the QRF transformation to the Fermi normal coordinates of such freely falling quantum particle and show that the metric is locally minkowskian. These results extend the Principle of Equivalence to QRFs in a superposition of gravitational fields. Verifying this principle may pave a fruitful path to establishing solid conceptual grounds for a future theory of quantum gravity.
Authors: Aleksandra Dimić, Marko Milivojević, Dragoljub Gočanin, Natália S. Móller and Časlav Brukner
Realization of indefinite causal order (ICO), a theoretical possibility that even causal relations between physical events can be subjected to quantum superposition, apart from its general significance for the fundamental physics research, would also enable quantum information processing that outperforms protocols in which the underlying causal structure is definite. In this paper, we start with a proposition that an observer in a state of quantum superposition of being at two different relative distances from the event horizon of a black hole, effectively resides in ICO space-time generated by the black hole. By invoking the fact that the near-horizon geometry of a Schwarzschild black hole is that of a Rindler space-time, we propose a way to simulate an observer in ICO space-time by a Rindler observer in a state of superposition of having two different proper accelerations. By extension, a pair of Rindler observers with entangled proper accelerations simulates a pair of entangled ICO observers. Moreover, these Rindler-systems might have a plausible experimental realization by means of optomechanical resonators.
Authors: Laura J. Henderson, Alessio Belenchia, Esteban Castro-Ruiz, Costantino Budroni, Magdalena Zych, Časlav Brukner and Robert B. Mann
Quantum field theory is completely characterized by the field correlations between spacetime points. In turn, some of these can be accessed by locally coupling to the field simple quantum systems, a.k.a. particle detectors. In this work, we consider what happens when a quantum-controlled superposition of detectors at different space-time points is used to probe the correlations of the field. We show that, due to quantum interference effects, two detectors can gain information on field correlations which would not be otherwise accessible. This has relevant consequences for information theoretic quantities, like entanglement and mutual information harvested from the field. In particular, the quantum control allows for extraction of entanglement in scenarios where this is otherwise provably impossible.
Authors: Martin J. Renner and Časlav Brukner
Research on indefinite causal structures is a rapidly evolving field that has a potential not only to make a radical revision of the classical understanding of space-time but also to achieve enhanced functionalities of quantum information processing. For example, it is known that indefinite causal structures provide exponential advantage in communication complexity when compared to causal protocols. In quantum computation, such structures can decide whether two unitary gates commute or anticommute with a single call to each gate, which is impossible with conventional (causal) quantum algorithms. A generalization of this effect to n unitary gates, originally introduced in M. Araújo et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 113, 250402 (2014) and often called Fourier promise problem (FPP), can be solved with the quantum-n-switch and a single call to each gate, while the best known causal algorithm so far calls O(n2) gates. In this work, we show that this advantage is smaller than expected. In fact, we present a causal algorithm that solves the only known specific FPP with O(nlog(n)) queries and a causal algorithm that solves every FPP with O(nn−−√) queries. Besides the interest in such algorithms on their own, our results limit the expected advantage of indefinite causal structures for these problems.
Authors: Marion Mikusch, Luis C. Barbado and Časlav Brukner
In physical experiments, reference frames are standardly modelled through a specific choice of coordinates used to describe the physical systems, but they themselves are not considered as such. However, any reference frame is a physical system that ultimately behaves according to quantum mechanics. We develop a framework for rotational (i.e. spin) quantum reference frames, with respect to which quantum systems with spin degrees of freedom are described. We give an explicit model for such frames as systems composed of three spin coherent states of angular momentum j and introduce the transformations between them by upgrading the Euler angles occurring in classical SO(3) spin transformations to quantum mechanical operators acting on the states of the reference frames. To ensure that an arbitrary rotation can be applied on the spin we take the limit of infinitely large j, in which case the angle operator possesses a continuous spectrum. We prove that rotationally invariant Hamiltonian of the Heisenberg model is invariant under a larger group of quantum reference frame transformations. Finally, the application to physical examples shows that superposition and entanglement of spin states are frame-dependent notions.
Authors: Veronika Baumann, Marius Krumm, Philippe Allard Guérin, Časlav Brukner
One of the most fundamental open problems in physics is the unification of general relativity and quantum theory to a theory of quantum gravity. An aspect that might become relevant in such a theory is that the dynamical nature of causal structure present in general relativity displays quantum uncertainty. This may lead to a phenomenon known as indefinite or quantum causal structure, as captured by the process matrix framework. Due to the generality of that framework, however, for many process matrices there is no clear physical interpretation. A popular approach towards a quantum theory of gravity is the Page-Wootters formalism, which associates to time a Hilbert space structure similar to spatial position. By explicitly introducing a quantum clock, it allows to describe time-evolution of systems via correlations between this clock and said systems encoded in history states. In this paper we combine the process matrix framework with a generalization of the Page-Wootters formalism in which one considers several observers, each with their own discrete quantum clock. We describe how to extract process matrices from scenarios involving such observers with quantum clocks, and analyze their properties. The description via a history state with multiple clocks imposes constraints on the physical implementation of process matrices and on the perspectives of the observers as described via causal reference frames. While it allows for describing scenarios where different definite causal orders are coherently controlled, we explain why certain non-causal processes might not be implementable within this setting.
Authors: Flaminia Giacomini, Časlav Brukner
We challenge the view that there is a basic conflict between the fundamental principles of Quantum Theory and General Relativity, and in particular the fact that a superposition of massive bodies would lead to a violation of the Equivalence Principle. It has been argued that this violation implies that such a superposition must inevitably spontaneously collapse (like in the Diósi-Penrose model). We identify the origin of such an assertion in the impossibility of finding a local, classical reference frame in which Einstein’s Equivalence Principle would hold. In contrast, we argue that the formulation of the Equivalence Principle can be generalised so that it holds for reference frames that are associated to quantum systems in a superposition of spacetimes. The core of this new formulation is the introduction of a quantum diffeomorphism to such Quantum Reference Frames (QRFs). This procedure reconciles the principle of linear superposition in Quantum Theory with the principle of general covariance and the Equivalence Principle of General Relativity. Hence, it is not necessary to invoke a gravity-induced spontaneous state reduction when a massive body is prepared in a spatial superposition.
Authors: Veronika Baumann, Flavio Del Santo, Alexander R. H. Smith, Flaminia Giacomini, Esteban Castro-Ruiz, Caslav Brukner
The quantum measurement problem can be regarded as the tension between the two alternative dynamics prescribed by quantum mechanics: the unitary evolution of the wave function and the state-update rule (or “collapse”) at the instant a measurement takes place. The notorious Wigner’s friend gedankenexperiment constitutes the paradoxical scenario in which different observers (one of whom is observed by the other) describe one and the same interaction differently, one –the Friend– via state-update and the other –Wigner– unitarily. This can lead to Wigner and his friend assigning different probabilities to the outcome of the same subsequent measurement. In this paper, we apply the Page-Wootters mechanism (PWM) as a timeless description of Wigner’s friend-like scenarios. We show that the standard rules to assign two-time conditional probabilities within the PWM need to be modified to deal with the Wigner’s friend gedankenexperiment. We identify three main definitions of such modified rules to assign two-time conditional probabilities, all of which reduce to standard quantum theory for non-Wigner’s friend scenarios. However, when applied to the Wigner’s friend setup each rule assigns different conditional probabilities, potentially resolving the probability-assignment paradox in a different manner. Moreover, one rule imposes strict limits on when a joint probability distribution for the measurement outcomes of Wigner and his Friend is well-defined, which single out those cases where Wigner’s measurement does not disturb the Friend’s memory and such a probability has an operational meaning in terms of collectible statistics. Interestingly, the same limits guarantee that said measurement outcomes fulfill the consistency condition of the consistent histories framework.