Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Quantum field theory


It is believed that not all quantum systems can be simulated efficiently using classical computational resources. This notion is supported by the fact that it is not known how to express the partition function in a sign-free manner in quantum Monte Carlo (QMC) simulations for a large number of important problems. The answer to the question-whether there is a fundamental obstruction to such a sign-free representation in generic quantum systems-remains unclear. Focusing on systems with bosonic degrees of freedom, we show that quantized gravitational responses appear as obstructions to local sign-free QMC. In condensed matter physics settings, these responses, such as thermal Hall conductance, are associated with fractional quantum Hall effects. We show that similar arguments also hold in the case of spontaneously broken time-reversal (TR) symmetry such as in the chiral phase of a perturbed quantum Kagome antiferromagnet. The connection between quantized gravitational responses and the sign problem is also manifested in certain vertex models, where TR symmetry is preserved.

Concepts: Quantum mechanics, Fundamental physics concepts, Physics, Matter, Condensed matter physics, Quantum field theory, Chemistry, Quantum Hall effect


Quantum steering allows two parties to verify shared entanglement even if one measurement device is untrusted. A conclusive demonstration of steering through the violation of a steering inequality is of considerable fundamental interest and opens up applications in quantum communication. To date, all experimental tests with single-photon states have relied on post selection, allowing untrusted devices to cheat by hiding unfavourable events in losses. Here we close this ‘detection loophole’ by combining a highly efficient source of entangled photon pairs with superconducting transition-edge sensors. We achieve an unprecedented ∼62% conditional detection efficiency of entangled photons and violate a steering inequality with the minimal number of measurement settings by 48 s.d.s. Our results provide a clear path to practical applications of steering and to a photonic loophole-free Bell test.

Concepts: Photon, Quantum mechanics, Quantum field theory, Quantum entanglement, Bell's theorem, EPR paradox, Bell test experiments, Local hidden variable theory


Quantum annealing is a combinatorial optimization technique inspired by quantum mechanics. Here we show that a spin model for the k-coloring of large dense random graphs can be field tuned so that its acceptance ratio diverges during Monte Carlo quantum annealing, until a ground state is reached. We also find that simulations exhibiting such a diverging acceptance ratio are generally more effective than those tuned to the more conventional pattern of a declining and/or stagnating acceptance ratio. This observation facilitates the discovery of solutions to several well-known benchmark k-coloring instances, some of which have been open for almost two decades.

Concepts: Mathematics, Photon, Quantum mechanics, Physics, Quantum field theory, Quantum electrodynamics, Monte Carlo, Graph theory


Classical electromagnetism and quantum mechanics are both central to the modern understanding of the physical world and its ongoing technological development. Quantum simulations of electromagnetic forces have the potential to provide information about materials and systems that do not have conveniently solvable theoretical descriptions, such as those related to quantum Hall physics, or that have not been physically observed, such as magnetic monopoles. However, quantum simulations that simultaneously implement all of the principal features of classical electromagnetism have thus far proved elusive. We experimentally realize a simulation in which a charged quantum particle interacts with the knotted electromagnetic fields peculiar to a topological model of ball lightning. These phenomena are induced by precise spatiotemporal control of the spin field of an atomic Bose-Einstein condensate, simultaneously creating a Shankar skyrmion-a topological excitation that was theoretically predicted four decades ago but never before observed experimentally. Our results reveal the versatile capabilities of synthetic electromagnetism and provide the first experimental images of topological three-dimensional skyrmions in a quantum system.

Concepts: Electromagnetism, Magnetic field, Photon, Quantum mechanics, Physics, Quantum field theory, Quantum electrodynamics, Classical mechanics


The spectrum of the hydrogen atom has played a central part in fundamental physics in the past 200 years. Historical examples of its significance include the wavelength measurements of absorption lines in the solar spectrum by Fraunhofer, the identification of transition lines by Balmer, Lyman et al., the empirical description of allowed wavelengths by Rydberg, the quantum model of Bohr, the capability of quantum electrodynamics to precisely predict transition frequencies, and modern measurements of the 1S-2S transition by Hänsch(1) to a precision of a few parts in 10(15). Recently, we have achieved the technological advances to allow us to focus on antihydrogen-the antimatter equivalent of hydrogen(2,3,4). The Standard Model predicts that there should have been equal amounts of matter and antimatter in the primordial Universe after the Big Bang, but today’s Universe is observed to consist almost entirely of ordinary matter. This motivates physicists to carefully study antimatter, to see if there is a small asymmetry in the laws of physics that govern the two types of matter. In particular, the CPT (charge conjugation, parity reversal, time reversal) Theorem, a cornerstone of the Standard Model, requires that hydrogen and antihydrogen have the same spectrum. Here we report the observation of the 1S-2S transition in magnetically trapped atoms of antihydrogen in the ALPHA-2 apparatus at CERN. We determine that the frequency of the transition, driven by two photons from a laser at 243 nm, is consistent with that expected for hydrogen in the same environment. This laser excitation of a quantum state of an atom of antimatter represents a highly precise measurement performed on an anti-atom. Our result is consistent with CPT invariance at a relative precision of ~2 × 10(-10).

Concepts: Electron, Photon, Quantum mechanics, Matter, Particle physics, Quantum field theory, Atom, Standard Model


Magnetic monopoles–particles that behave as isolated north or south magnetic poles–have been the subject of speculation since the first detailed observations of magnetism several hundred years ago. Numerous theoretical investigations and hitherto unsuccessful experimental searches have followed Dirac’s 1931 development of a theory of monopoles consistent with both quantum mechanics and the gauge invariance of the electromagnetic field. The existence of even a single Dirac magnetic monopole would have far-reaching physical consequences, most famously explaining the quantization of electric charge. Although analogues of magnetic monopoles have been found in exotic spin ices and other systems, there has been no direct experimental observation of Dirac monopoles within a medium described by a quantum field, such as superfluid helium-3 (refs 10-13). Here we demonstrate the controlled creation of Dirac monopoles in the synthetic magnetic field produced by a spinor Bose-Einstein condensate. Monopoles are identified, in both experiments and matching numerical simulations, at the termini of vortex lines within the condensate. By directly imaging such a vortex line, the presence of a monopole may be discerned from the experimental data alone. These real-space images provide conclusive and long-awaited experimental evidence of the existence of Dirac monopoles. Our result provides an unprecedented opportunity to observe and manipulate these quantum mechanical entities in a controlled environment.

Concepts: Electromagnetism, Electromagnetic field, Magnetic field, Photon, Quantum mechanics, Quantum field theory, Quantum electrodynamics, Field


The fundamental properties of light derive from its constituent particles-massless quanta (photons) that do not interact with one another. However, it has long been known that the realization of coherent interactions between individual photons, akin to those associated with conventional massive particles, could enable a wide variety of novel scientific and engineering applications. Here we demonstrate a quantum nonlinear medium inside which individual photons travel as massive particles with strong mutual attraction, such that the propagation of photon pairs is dominated by a two-photon bound state. We achieve this through dispersive coupling of light to strongly interacting atoms in highly excited Rydberg states. We measure the dynamical evolution of the two-photon wavefunction using time-resolved quantum state tomography, and demonstrate a conditional phase shift exceeding one radian, resulting in polarization-entangled photon pairs. Particular applications of this technique include all-optical switching, deterministic photonic quantum logic and the generation of strongly correlated states of light.

Concepts: Photon, Quantum mechanics, Physics, Light, Quantum field theory, Atom, Excited state, Elementary particle


The validity of the superposition principle and of Born’s rule are well-accepted tenants of quantum mechanics. Surprisingly, it has been predicted that the intensity pattern formed in a three-slit experiment is seemingly in contradiction with the most conventional form of the superposition principle when exotic looped trajectories are taken into account. However, the probability of observing such paths is typically very small, thus rendering them extremely difficult to measure. Here we confirm the validity of Born’s rule and present the first experimental observation of exotic trajectories as additional paths for the light by directly measuring their contribution to the formation of optical interference fringes. We accomplish this by enhancing the electromagnetic near-fields in the vicinity of the slits through the excitation of surface plasmons. This process increases the probability of occurrence of these exotic trajectories, demonstrating that they are related to the near-field component of the photon’s wavefunction.

Concepts: Electromagnetism, Photon, Quantum mechanics, Physics, Light, Electric field, Quantum field theory, Wave


Quantum point contacts are cornerstones of mesoscopic physics and central building blocks for quantum electronics. Although the Fermi wavelength in high-quality bulk graphene can be tuned up to hundreds of nanometres, the observation of quantum confinement of Dirac electrons in nanostructured graphene has proven surprisingly challenging. Here we show ballistic transport and quantized conductance of size-confined Dirac fermions in lithographically defined graphene constrictions. At high carrier densities, the observed conductance agrees excellently with the Landauer theory of ballistic transport without any adjustable parameter. Experimental data and simulations for the evolution of the conductance with magnetic field unambiguously confirm the identification of size quantization in the constriction. Close to the charge neutrality point, bias voltage spectroscopy reveals a renormalized Fermi velocity of ∼1.5 × 10(6) m s(-1) in our constrictions. Moreover, at low carrier density transport measurements allow probing the density of localized states at edges, thus offering a unique handle on edge physics in graphene devices.

Concepts: Electron, Quantum mechanics, Fundamental physics concepts, Spin, Particle physics, Quantum field theory, Standard Model, Paul Dirac


An arbitrary unknown quantum state cannot be precisely measured or perfectly replicated(1). However, quantum teleportation allows faithful transfer of unknown quantum states from one object to another over long distance(2), without physical travelling of the object itself. Long-distance teleportation has been recognized as a fundamental element in protocols such as large-scale quantum networks(3,4) and distributed quantum computation(5,6). However, the previous teleportation experiments between distant locations(7-12) were limited to a distance of the order of 100 kilometers, owing to photon loss in optical fibres or terrestrial free-space channels. An outstanding open challenge for a global-scale ‘quantum internet’(13) is to significantly extend the range for teleportation. A promising solution to this problem is exploiting satellite platform and space-based link, which can conveniently connect two remote points on the Earth with greatly reduced channel loss because most of the photons' propagation path is in empty space. Here we report the first quantum teleportation of independent single-photon qubits from a ground observatory to a low-Earth-orbit satellite-through an up-link channel-with a distance of up to 1,400 km. To optimize the link efficiency and overcome the atmospheric turbulence in the up-link, a series of techniques are developed, including a compact ultra-bright source of multi-photon entanglement, narrow beam divergence, high-bandwidth and high-accuracy acquiring, pointing and tracking (APT). We demonstrate successful quantum teleportation for six input states in mutually unbiased bases with an average fidelity of 0.80 ± 0.01, well above the classical limit(14). This work establishes the first ground-to-satellite up-link for faithful and ultra-long-distance quantum teleportation, an essential step towards global-scale quantum internet.

Concepts: Photon, Quantum mechanics, Spin, Quantum field theory, Qubit, Quantum state, Boson, Quantum entanglement