Experiment will tell if the universe is a computer

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A group of scientists from several countries, led by the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, has proposed an experiment that can help determine whether the universe functions as a “quantum computer”. The new approach was presented in a study published in February, in the journal PRX Quantum.

To determine how the universe works in its most fundamental state, the team headed by professor at the University of Nottingham School of Mathematics Richard Howl suggests a test to see whether gravity obeys the laws of quantum mechanics or whether it is classical in nature, as indicated Einstein and Newton, one of the main doubts of modern physics.

In the experiment, billions of atoms would be cooled to extremely low temperatures, in a spherical millimeter trap, so that they enter a new phase of matter, called Bose-Einstein condensate, behaving like a single larger atom.

The next step, according to Howl, is to apply a magnetic field to the new artificial atom, so that it feels only its own gravitational attraction. In the end, it would be enough to interpret the result of the experiment, which could prove the quantum nature of gravity if the atom demonstrates the key ingredient for quantum computing, associated with the “negative probability”.

“A huge quantum computer”

If the experiment can resolve a debate that has existed for more than 100 years, discovering whether gravity is classical or quantum, it could also help determine whether the universe is a quantum computer.

That’s because it connects to a philosophical idea that the universe behaves like an “immense quantum computer that is calculating itself”, according to professor at the University of Hong Kong Marios Christodoulou, a research participant.

As the proposed approach uses current technology and is considered simpler than previous suggestions, the team believes it is possible to test quantum gravity soon.