Niels Bohr's Quantum Mechanics and Philosophy of Physics

When Bohr first published his findings in 1913, Albert Einstein called it “musicality in the sphere of thought.” He would also later go on to say, “If all this is true, then it means the end of physics.” Bohr himself said that "[a]ny one who is not shocked by quantum theory doesn't understand it."
Einstein was not alone in his reservations. Bohr’s protégés and other physicists working from Bohr’s model were proposing truly radical ideas. Heisenberg would go on to show that you could not observe the position of a particle and observe its momentum at the same time. He would also introduce an extensive “matrix mechanics” that could be used to calculate the properties of particles.
Erwin Schrodinger proposed a different theory that an electron was not a particle, but a wavefunction that spread itself through space. To the disbelief of many at the time, it was shown that both Schrodinger and Heisenberg were correct, and that their methods were interchangeable; and by extension that an electron was both particle and wave at the same time.

Complementarity: A New Philosophy of Physics

One of Bohr’s more controversial and lasting contributions to the debate was his introduction of the concept of Complementarity. Bohr found that if you were to take a measurement of an electron with one apparatus, it would predictably behave like a particle. Make the same measurement with another apparatus and suddenly it behaved like a wave.
Such results would have driven most physicists mad looking for a way to reconcile this contradiction, but Bohr proposed that it was pointless to try. Bohr said that our understanding of light and other quantum phenomena was furthered by measuring it as either particle or wave, but since one could not do both at the same time, the observer must decide how to observe it and accept that doing so foreclosed the possibility of observing it differently.
More radically, he declared that there was no paradox to solve since physics shouldn’t be about the thing being studied, but should be about the results of experiment and observations. In this way, Complementarity challenged much of the philosophy of physics which held fast to the idea that knowable laws governed the universe and everything in it, and that anything in the universe could be defined by a unified set of properties.
By saying that a single thing could have more than one mutually-exclusive definition of equal validity and that we need both definitions to truly understand the thing in question, he touched off a metaphysical controversy in physics that is still being fought today.

Reaction to Bohr’s Ideas

While he initially welcomed and approved of Bohr’s work, Einstein would go on to become Bohr’s most famous critics, even though they were personally close. Einstein was married to the deterministic view of physics, so the imposition of randomness and uncertainty into the foundation of physics troubled him. Famously, he remarked that "God does not play dice with the universe."
None other than Schrodinger himself added to the criticism when he proposed his most famous thought experiment of a cat in a box in which the radioactive decay of an atom inside triggers the release of cyanide. According to the Quantum Mechanics that he himself help to build, until you opened the box to see if the atom has decayed, the atom exists in both decayed and non-decayed states. If this were true, then Schrodinger’s cat was both alive and dead at the same time.
Originally meant to prove how the new theories were going off the rails, Schrodinger inadvertently confirmed the maddeningly weird nature of Quantum Mechanics, since the superpositions of particles has long been an established fact. The radioactive atom in Schrodinger’s box is in fact decayed and not until it is observed; his cat is both dead and alive until an observer opens the box.
Trying to untangle this and other problems of quantum mechanics has even given rise to new models of reality, such as the theory of the Multiverse. Moreover, the concept of Complementarity is a subject of intense debate not just in the field of physics but also among philosophers, some of whom accuse Bohr of a "simple-minded positivis[m]."
Others carelessly attribute ideas to Bohr that he never expressed. In particular, some critics of Complementarity claim that it means that simply observing a particle changes its behavior to one mutually exclusive state or the other.
Bohr, however, never made such a claim, arguing only that when observing a particle with a specific instrument, the particle will react to that instrument, predictably, as either a wave or a particle and will do so every time. Using another instrument will yield a different result and so the observer's choice of instrument will dictate what behavior they will observe.

Bohr’s Lasting Legacy

Niels Bohr Particle
Source: cyclotron by Robert Couse-Baker/Flickr [CC by 2.0] | Niels Bohr / Wikimedia

Over the last century, Bohr’s critics waited for some final repudiation of Bohr’s work that never came. Instead, Einstein’s Relativity has been repeatedly confirmed and built upon by later physicists like the late Steven Hawkings.
Meanwhile, Bohr’s discoveries underpin some of the most advanced technology currently being developed. Quantum computers, built entirely off the principles of quantum entanglement that drove Einstein to distraction, promise an unfathomable increase in computing power over classical computers and have already been built by companies such as Google and in University labs all over the world.
Finally, it was Bohr himself who proposed that the complementarity of these different sets of rules allow us to have a fuller understanding of the world we live in. For this and much much more, we will forever remember his genius.

Quantum Machine Learning

... Since quantum systems produce counter-intuitive patterns believed not to be efficiently produced by classical systems, it is reasonable to postulate that quantum computers may outperform classical computers on machine learning tasks. The field of quantum machine learning explores how to devise and implement concrete quantum software that offers such advantages. Recent work has made clear that the hardware and software challenges are still considerable but has also opened paths towards solutions.


В понедельник, 26 марта в 18:30 в 239 НК, с реферативным докладом по статье J. Biamonte, et al. - Quantum Machine Learning, Nature 549, 195-202 (2017) выступит студентка 2-го курса МФТИ Мусина Лилия. 

Аннотация статьи: 
Recent progress implies that a crossover between machine learning and quantum information processing benefits both fields. Traditional machine learning has dramatically improved the benchmarking and control of experimental quantum computing systems, including adaptive quantum phase estimation and designing quantum computing gates. On the other hand, quantum mechanics offers tantalizing prospects to enhance machine learning, ranging from reduced computational complexity to improved generalization performance. The most notable examples include quantum enhanced algorithms for principal component analysis, quantum support vector machines, and quantum Boltzmann machines. Progress has been rapid, fostered by demonstrations of midsized quantum optimizers which are predicted to soon outperform their classical counterparts. Further, we are witnessing the emergence of a physical theory pinpointing the fundamental and natural limitations of learning. Here we survey the cutting edge of this merger and list several open problems. 

Quantum computing, not AI, will define our future

... It’s been said that quantum computers will break current encryption schemes, kill blockchain, and serve other dark purposes.
If you want to get involved, check out the free tools that the household-name computing giants such as IBM and Google have made available, as well as the open-source offerings out there from giants and start-ups alike. Actual time on a quantum computer is available today, and access opportunities will only expand.
In keeping with my view that proprietary solutions will succumb to open-source, collaborative R&D and universal quantum computing value propositions, allow me to point out that several dozen start-ups in North America alone have jumped into the QC ecosystem along with governments and academia. Names such as Rigetti Computing, D-Wave Systems, 1Qbit Information Technologies, Inc., Quantum Circuits, Inc., QC Ware, Zapata Computing, Inc. may become well-known or they may become subsumed by bigger players, their burn rate – anything is possible in this nascent field.

You Experience the Quantum World Every Time You See, Touch, or Smell

Molecules of very different shapes can all smell the same, and molecules of similar shapes can smell very differently. There must be some other difference that the receptors are picking up on. That difference may lie in quantum physics.

Molecules all have a different vibrational frequency, depending on their mass, their bonds, and their structure. It's possible that our noses detect the differences in vibration between molecules, rather than just their shape. There's some evidence for this: A scientist in the 1990s compared the scents of two molecules with different shapes but identical molecular frequencies and found that they smelled exactly the same.