Quantum Mechanical Con Game

May 05, 2008

For the first time, physicists have come up with a scheme that would allow a quantum mechanical expert to win every time in a con game with a victim who only knows about classical physics. Prior quantum cons have typically been vulnerable to simple countermeasures.

A pair of physicists at Tel-Aviv University in Israel came up with the quantum cheat by imagining two people betting on the location of a particle hidden among a set of boxes. In the game, a quantum mechanical con artist named Alice turns away as her classical victim, Bob, is allowed to look inside one of two boxes sitting on a table to see if there is a particle inside. He then closes the box and Alice guesses whether or not Bob found anything in the box he chose. If she guesses correctly, she wins Bob's money, if not, she pays him.

Classically, there is a 50% chance of Alice getting it right. If instead she's adept at quantum mechanics, and has a third box hidden away, she can ensure that she always knows what Bob found in his box. All she has to do is prepare the particle in a state that essentially places it in all three boxes simultaneously, through a phenomenon known as quantum superposition. In effect, there is an equal chance of the particle turning up in any one of the boxes.

After Bob looks in one of the two boxes on the table, Alice measures the state of the particle in her hidden box. If she finds it empty, she knows Bob saw the particle in the box he opened. If she finds that the particle is in a superposition between two boxes, she knows that Bob opened the third box but didn't see anything inside. In either case, she always knows what Bob found, even though she has no way of knowing in advance where the particle will turn up or which box Bob chose to look in.

The authors of the paper admit that the current state of technology isn't good enough for a con artist to make money with quantum mechanics. But they believe that this is the first time anyone has shown that it's theoretically possible for someone like Alice to use quantum mechanics to win every time in a game that classical physics would only give her a fifty-fifty chance of winning. With advances in quantum technology, it may someday turn out that gambling is only risky for those of us who don't understand quantum mechanics.

Citation: N. Aharon and L. Vaidman, Physical Review A (forthcoming)

Source: American Physical Society

Explore further: New insights found in black hole collisions

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Have cosmologists lost their minds in the multiverse?

May 13, 2014

The recent BICEP2 observations – of swirls in the polarisation of the cosmic microwave background – have been proclaimed as many things, from evidence of the Big Bang and gravitational waves to something ...

Recommended for you

X-rays probe LHC for cause of short circuit

Mar 27, 2015

The LHC has now transitioned from powering tests to the machine checkout phase. This phase involves the full-scale tests of all systems in preparation for beam. Early last Saturday morning, during the ramp-down, ...

New insights found in black hole collisions

Mar 27, 2015

New research provides revelations about the most energetic event in the universe—the merging of two spinning, orbiting black holes into a much larger black hole.

Swimming algae offer insights into living fluid dynamics

Mar 27, 2015

None of us would be alive if sperm cells didn't know how to swim, or if the cilia in our lungs couldn't prevent fluid buildup. But we know very little about the dynamics of so-called "living fluids," those ...

Fluctuation X-ray scattering

Mar 26, 2015

In biology, materials science and the energy sciences, structural information provides important insights into the understanding of matter. The link between a structure and its properties can suggest new ...

Hydrodynamics approaches to granular matter

Mar 26, 2015

Sand, rocks, grains, salt or sugar are what physicists call granular media. A better understanding of granular media is important - particularly when mixed with water and air, as it forms the foundations of houses and off-shore ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

thales
not rated yet May 05, 2008
See, quantum physicists are unethical.
nilbud
1 / 5 (1) May 05, 2008
Is this really the level of thought which these mooks are working at. They've gone from poisoning cats to embezzling money from morons.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.