January 16, 2005

Quantum scheduling

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at January 16, 2005 3:35 PM

I was thinking about schedule conflicts today, and it occurred to me that as a physicist working in quantum coherence, such things shouldn't be a problem for me. I should be able to build some Miévillian device to go to multiple events at once. And then I realized that I already have such a device: the qubit we currently study has this capability.

Consider what I hope will remain a purely hypothetical situation: a friend's wedding in Los Angeles being on the same day as my brother's graduation in Chicago. I'd like to go to both places, so I go into the lab and prepare to measure the qubit. A measurement of a qubit can have two possible outcomes, which I will call 0 and 1: these correspond to clockwise and counter-clockwise currents in a loop of superconducting aluminum. Ahead of time I decide that the outcome of the measurement will dictate which event I go to: if 0, I go to Chicago; if 1, I go to LA.

Next I apply a pi/2 pulse to the qubit. This is a pulse of microwave radiation tuned to the qubit's resonance frequency, over a time duration designed to rotate the qubit 90 degrees (pi/2 radians) on the Bloch sphere, which puts it in a superposition state of 0 and 1. So the qubit is in both states simultaneously. Now I make the measurement.

According to the many-worlds interpretation, what happens when I make the measurement is that there are two parallel universes: in one I measure 0 and go to Chicago, and in the other I observe 1 and go to LA. Success!

(Unfortunately, another way of looking at it is that there are two parallel universes, one in which I don't go to Chicago and one in which I don't go to LA. On average I've still only gone one place. If only I could entangle myself with the qubit without causing decoherence...)

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well, there was that application of this stuff I wrote up last year ... :) Annals of Improbable Research thought it might offend some of their readers...

I think you should go to LA. I don't know who's getting married, but LA >> Chicago. :)

Posted by: Mason | January 16, 2005 9:10 PM

It looks like they'll be on different days, so I won't have to make that judgement. :)

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | January 16, 2005 9:36 PM

The wedding mentioned is mine. :) Or however it's put.

I unfortunately agree with the on average only going to one being the huge drawback. What if you only remembered half of each, and it was all the wrong moments? ; ;

Posted by: Zifnab | January 16, 2005 10:50 PM

Well, congrats! I hope you know what you're getting into... :)

I'm glad to see that you have properly accomodated Travis.

Posted by: Mason | January 17, 2005 8:43 PM

Oh, and I guessed correctly it was yours, for what it's worth.

I didn't think Travis knew that many people who are still around LA, so I naturally started by thinking of the people I also know.

Posted by: Mason | January 17, 2005 8:44 PM
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