Physicists quantify the usefulness of 'quantum weirdness'

For the past 100 years, physicists have been studying the weird features of quantum physics, and now they're trying to put these features to good use. One prominent example is that quantum superposition (also known as quantum coherence)—which is the property that allows an object to be in two states at the same time—has been identified as a useful resource for quantum communication technologies.

Recently, physicists have been developing ways to measure the amount of quantum coherence in a system. Now in two new papers, a team of physicists and mathematicians (Carmine Napoli, et al., and Marco Piani, et al.) has introduced a way to quantify the usefulness of quantum coherence by looking at this property from a purely operational perspective. The new measurement method can answer questions such as "how useful will a system's quantum coherence be for a task like encoding and decoding secret messages?" In other words, the new method quantifies the advantage of using quantum mechanics.

"We introduce a new way to quantify quantum coherence, the quintessential signature of quantum mechanics, capturing the extent to which a system can live in a superposition of distinct states (like a coin being simultaneously heads and tails, or a famous cat dead and alive)," the researchers wrote.

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