Here’s an overview of some of the most important and interesting physics news from this week. As always, if you enjoyed these news, register for our email newsletter. Also, for more news, visit the links below.
1. On Thermodynamics and Quantum Mechanics (June 26)
Thermodynamics has always been one of the most successful theories in physics, however, when it comes to quantum world, it doesn’t seem to work that well. According to the new research by scientists at UCL and University of Gdansk, our current understanding of thermodynamics has to be modified, when dealing with small systems.
One of the main differences between thermodynamics applied to the world of the small and our everyday world is that the quantity called free energy doesn’t determine what happens in the small systems. Instead, several new free energies govern the behavior of these microscopic systems. “Thermodynamics at the microscopic scale is fundamentally irreversible. This is dramatically different to larger systems where all thermodynamic processes can be made reversible if we change systems slowly enough,” commented one of the authors of the work Prof. Michal Horodecki. More about this discovery here.
Chips “go quantum”
2. Another Breakthrough in Internet Bandwidth (June 27)
A team of engineers from Boston University and University of Southern California has devised a new fiber optic technology that promises to increase bandwidth dramatically. The discovery centers around donut-shaped laser light beams called optical vortices, in which the travelling light moves like a tornado. These optical vortices (OAM, beams) were thought to be unstable in fiber, until BU Engineering Prof. Siddharth Ramachandran recently designed an optical fiber that can propagate them. More information can be found here.
3. Large-Scale Quantum Chip Validated (June 28)
A team of scientists at USC has verified that quantum effects play a role in the first commercial quantum optimization processor.”Using a specific test problem involving eight qubits we have verified that the D-Wave processor performs optimization calculations (that is, finds lowest energy solutions) using a procedure that is consistent with quantum annealing and is inconsistent with the predictions of classical annealing,” said Daniel Lidar, scientific director of the Quantum Computing Center.
Quantum “superposition,” along with the ability of quantum states to “tunnel” through energy barriers, are hoped to play a role in helping future generations of the processors to perform calculations much faster than traditional processors. More information here.