British scientists have noticed an eerie similarity between the mathematics of the quantum entanglement utilised by quantum computers, and that of black holes as explained by string theory.
The team at London’s Imperial College, headed by Professor Mike Duff, describe in a newly-published paper how it appears possible to use black hole theories derived from string theory to make predictions about the behaviour of what are called ‘four quibit’ entangled particles.
This sounds abstruse and indeed it is – the Imperial College paper is for professional physicists only. But the implications could be significant for physics and perhaps, indirectly, for quantum computing itself.
It would be the first time that mathematics derived from highly-contentious string theory had been used to make predictions about anything in the experimentally-verifiable universe. That will raise eyebrows for a slowly-aging ‘post quantum mechanics’ theory that is still as contentious as it has become varied.
For quantum computing it hints at a way of working with calculations derived from more than three quibits by starting with black hole/string theory mathematics. A qubit is the quantum equivalent of a conventional bit made up of entangled particles, which quantum sceptic Einstein once famously derided as "spooky action at a distance'.
The problem is that working with two or three involves calculations so complex that doing useful work with it becomes almost impractical.
“This will not be proof that string theory is the right ‘theory of everything’ that is being sought by cosmologists and particle physicists. However, it will be very important to theoreticians because it will demonstrate whether or not string theory works, even if its application is in an unexpected and unrelated area of physics,” said Professor Duff.
Duff first hit upon the connection while listening to a presentation on quantum entanglement at a physics conference in Australia. Returning to the UK, he realised that the mathematics were identical to that which he had separately developed some years previously to explain black holes.
“This may be telling us something very deep about the world we live in, or it may be no more than a quirky coincidence”, said Professor Duff. “Either way, it’s useful."