From black holes to helium

March 21, 2017 by Joshua E. Brown, University of Vermont
From black holes to helium
Adrian Del Maestro, a physicist at the University of Vermont. Credit: Josh Brown

A team of scientists has discovered that a law controlling the bizarre behavior of black holes out in space—is also true for cold helium atoms that can be studied in laboratories.

"It's called an entanglement area law," says Adrian Del Maestro, a physicist at the University of Vermont who co-led the research. That this law appears at both the vast scale of outer space and at the tiny scale of atoms, "is weird," Del Maestro says, "and it points to a deeper understanding of reality."

The new study was published March 13 in the journal Nature Physics—and it may be a step toward a long-sought quantum theory of gravity and new advances in quantum computing.

At the surface

In the 1970s, famed physicists Stephen Hawking and Jacob Bekenstein discovered something strange about black holes. They calculated that when matter falls into one of these bottomless holes in space, the amount of information it gobbles up—what scientists call its entropy—increases only as fast as its surface area increases, not its volume. This would be like measuring how many files there are in a filing cabinet based on the surface area of the drawer rather than how deep the drawer is. As with many aspects of modern physics, check your common sense at the door.

"We have found the same type of law is obeyed for quantum information in ," says Del Maestro. To make their discovery, UVM's Del Maestro and three colleagues from the University of Waterloo in Canada first created an exact simulation of the physics of extremely cold helium after it transforms from a gas into a form of matter called a superfluid: below about two degrees Kelvin, helium atoms—exhibiting the dual wave/particle nature that Max Planck and others discovered—become glopped together such that the individual atoms cannot be described independent from each other. Instead, they form a cooperative dance that the scientists call quantum entangled.

Using two supercomputers, including the Vermont Advanced Computing Core at UVM, the scientists explored the interactions of sixty-four helium atoms in a superfluid. They found that the amount of entangled quantum information shared between two regions of a container—a sphere of the helium partitioned off from the larger container—was determined by the of the sphere and not its volume. Like a holograph, it seems that a three-dimensional volume of space is entirely encoded on its two-dimensional surface. Just like a black hole.

Scientists have discovered that a sphere of cold helium atoms (in green)—interacting with a surrounding larger container of the same kind of atoms (in blue)—follows a bizarre law of physics also observed in black holes. This discovery points to a “deeper reality,” says UVM physicist Adrian Del Maestro and may be a step toward using this “superfluid” helium as the fuel of a new generation of ultra-fast quantum computers. Credit: Adrian Del Maestro

This idea had been guessed at from a principle in physics called "locality" but had never been observed before in an experiment. By using a complete numerical simulation of all the attributes of helium, the scientists were, for the first time ever, able to demonstrate the existence of the entanglement area law in a real quantum liquid.

"Superfluid helium could become an important resource—the fuel—for a new generation of quantum computers," says Del Maestro, whose work is supported by the National Science Foundation. But to make use of its huge information processing potential, he says, "we have to understand more deeply how it works."

Spooky neighborhoods

In the 1920s, Albert Einstein famously—and skeptically—referred to entanglement as "spooky action at a distance." Since that time, entanglement has been demonstrated as real by numerous laboratory and theoretical experiments. Instead of defying the universe's maximum speed limit—the speed of light—what entanglement increasingly seems to show is that our human macro-scale understanding of distance, and time itself, may be illusory. A pair of entangled particles may have a quantum communication, seeming to "know" each others' state instantly across miles. But this intuition mixes up our classical view of reality with a deeper quantum reality in which a form of information—entanglement entropy—is "delocalized," spread out in a system, with millions of possible states, or "superpositions," that only become fixed by the action of measuring. (Consider Schrödinger's cat—both dead and alive.)

"Entanglement is non-classical information shared between parts of a quantum state," notes Del Maestro. It's "the characteristic trait of quantum mechanics that is most foreign to our classical reality."

Being able to understand, let alone control, quantum entanglement in complex systems with many particles has proven difficult. The observation of an entanglement area law in this new experiment points toward quantum liquids, like superfluid helium, as a possible medium for starting to master entanglement. For example, the new study reveals that the density of the superfluid helium regulates the amount of entanglement. That suggests that laboratory experiments and, eventually, quantum computers could manipulate the density of a quantum liquid as a "possible knob," Del Maestro says, for regulating .

Hunting gravity

And this new research has implications for some fundamental problems in physics. So far, the study of gravity has largely defied efforts to bring it under the umbrella of mechanics, but theorists continue to look for connections. "Our classical theory of gravity relies on knowing exactly the shape or geometry of space-time," Del Maestro says, but requires uncertainty about this shape. A piece of the bridge between these may be formed by this new study's contribution to the "holographic principle": the exotic contention that the entire 3-D universe might be understood as two-dimensional information—whether a gargantuan black hole or microscopic puddle of superfluid .

Explore further: Quantum computing advances with control of entanglement

More information: C. M. Herdman et al. Entanglement area law in superfluid 4He, Nature Physics (2017). DOI: 10.1038/nphys4075

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18 comments

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RNP
4.2 / 5 (5) Mar 21, 2017
An open access copy of the paper can be found here: https://arxiv.org...8518.pdf
thingumbobesquire
3 / 5 (2) Mar 21, 2017
"a complete numerical simulation of all the attributes of helium" ...This claim is impossible to prove.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (5) Mar 21, 2017
Instead of defying the universe's maximum speed limit

The speed of light limit still applies - to information interchange. Spooky action at a distance (entanglement) does not classify as information interchange (you can't use it to send a message).
cantdrive85
1.4 / 5 (9) Mar 21, 2017
Instead of defying the universe's maximum speed limit—the speed of light

Such are the claims of those who deify pseudoscientists. With little more than a thought experiment and a stroke of a pen this "speed limit" was imposed upon science. The obvious contradiction being the Earth doesn't orbit where the Sun was 8 minutes ago nor does Pluto orbit where the Sun was 5 1/2 hours ago. Gravity must be a nearly instantaneous phenomena operating on this scale or the planets would be flung out of orbit.
RNP
4.6 / 5 (11) Mar 21, 2017
@cantdrive85
Gravity must be a nearly instantaneous phenomena operating on this scale or the planets would be flung out of orbit.


Your claim is absolutely ridiculous, and appears to based based on a misunderstanding of the dynamics of co-moving gravitational systems. I suggest you do a little study of Newtonian mechanics before you post such claims in future.
dnatwork
5 / 5 (2) Mar 21, 2017
@cantdrive85
Gravity must be a nearly instantaneous phenomena operating on this scale or the planets would be flung out of orbit.


Your claim is absolutely ridiculous, and appears to based based on a misunderstanding of the dynamics of co-moving gravitational systems. I suggest you do a little study of Newtonian mechanics before you post such claims in future.


I'd say he's wrong for a different reason. Newton didn't explain why gravity is there, he just gave the formulas. But just like entanglement, you have to ask, how did the two things get connected? Is it because some particle zipped between them to enforce a law? Or is it that they started out together originally, and then got separated?

Everything started out together, solar system, universe, etc. Then some force pushed everything apart, and we've brownianly drifting and bouncing ever since. Now we are all in our own little gravity wells, which is just the measure of our inertia relative to each other.
big_hairy_jimbo
3 / 5 (2) Mar 21, 2017
I thought Einstein described Gravity satisfactorily. Gravity is an illusory force, created by the bending/warping of Spacetime. BUT, we think Spacetime can expand quicker than the speed of light. So if the Sun was instantly removed from existence, then why wouldn't spacetime flatten out instantly? Why does Spacetime flatten out at the speed of light, yet can EXPAND quicker than the speed of light??? BIZARRE!!!
Dingbone
Mar 21, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
cantdrive85
1.8 / 5 (5) Mar 21, 2017
I suggest you do a little study of Newtonian mechanics before you post such claims in future.

Time has no part in Newtonian mechanics. If not it should be easy enough to point to the time factor in his equations.
the dynamics of co-moving gravitational systems

Speaking of those co-moving systems;
https://youtu.be/mvgaxQGPg7I
That looks electrodynamic, not so much gravitational.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (1) Mar 22, 2017
But just like entanglement, you have to ask, how did the two things get connected?

Transitioning from a gas to a superfluid is a function of charge proximity/mobility.

Increase of proximity PLUS an decrease in volume reduces the local mobility (and vice versa). Cooling reduces repulsive charge of protons. The more you reduce the charge, the more HE atoms you can pack together. This reduces mobility locally, but increases it within the total volume. And so on...
Think - a sliding scale on one side of a scale (at it's simplest).
Anybody remember those?

Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (1) Mar 22, 2017
Instead of defying the universe's maximum speed limit

The speed of light limit still applies - to information interchange. Spooky action at a distance (entanglement) does not classify as information interchange (you can't use it to send a message).

No, it just means you've just compacted all that info on 1 second into approx. 1/10th the space... Then ya gotta take 100 seconds to decipher it...
Dang, we need to go back to base 60...
Too bad we don't have the attention span for that, now...:-)
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (1) Mar 22, 2017
Everything started out together, solar system, universe, etc.

No each developed as a result of each balancing with 2 other components.
Then some force pushed everything apart, and we've brownianly drifting and bouncing ever since.

nothing outside pushed anything apart. Pushed together if anything. Compacted.
Now we are all in our own little gravity wells, which is just the measure of our inertia relative to each other.

Which is easy if you use 2 absolutes to relate.
Relativity is opposite, but mantained in a triangle...:-)
Think Pythagoras.
antialias_physorg
4.6 / 5 (10) Mar 22, 2017
Gravity must be a nearly instantaneous phenomena

You might have heard about this gravitational wave discovery thing. It was in the news a fair bit. the signal in this was at light speed.

Cooling reduces repulsive charge of protons.

Erm...no? Whatever gave you that idea?
entrance
not rated yet Mar 22, 2017
It's strange, that both things seems to have the same behaviour.

On the one hand cold helium, on the other hand the black holes with its firewall-like event horizon. Is our classical physics applicable to just a specific temperature range? Or are firewalls cold, not hot?

On the one hand this cloud of cold helium atoms behaves like a single object, on the other hand everything near the event horizon is destroyed.

The string-theory suggests more than 3 dimensions. Is it possible that cold helium clouds and event horizons doesn't belong to our classical 3 (or 4) dimensions? Are they already part of one of those additional dimensions?

Is it possible that our 3 dimensions are not a hologram of a 2-dimensional picture, but that things of other dimensions can be described as a projection on windows of our 3 dimensional system?
jonesdave
4.4 / 5 (7) Mar 22, 2017
I suggest you do a little study of Newtonian mechanics before you post such claims in future.

Time has no part in Newtonian mechanics. If not it should be easy enough to point to the time factor in his equations.
the dynamics of co-moving gravitational systems

Speaking of those co-moving systems;
https://youtu.be/mvgaxQGPg7I
That looks electrodynamic, not so much gravitational.


Nope, that looks like the poster of the video is clueless. It is pure pseudoscience.
https://briankobe...l-noise/

antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (6) Mar 22, 2017
. Or do you have an alternate explanation why everything in the quantum realm needs to be closer in order to interact as temperatures go down?

Temperature is a measure of average kinetic energy. The lower the temperature the less stuff moves. Under such conditions you get less (or slower however you want to see it) interactions accross large distances.
(Under really cold conditions other effects come into play, because momentum and position are linked via the uncertainty principle. When momentum drops to near zero the positional uncertainty becomes large...but then 'interaction' starts to have a fuzzy meaning because particles become indistinguishable).

Also remember that helium atoms are neutral. The proton charges aren't what keeps individual Helium atoms together or apart. Charge is a function of the quarks that make up the proton. these are fixed.

Or why reducing temperature consistently results in increased density

Not for water.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (1) Mar 22, 2017
Gravity must be a nearly instantaneous phenomena

You might have heard about this gravitational wave discovery thing. It was in the news a fair bit. the signal in this was at light speed. ]/q]
Well, at least close enough that we couldn't tell the difference...:-)
Cooling reduces repulsive charge of protons
Erm...no? Whatever gave you that idea?

Cuz it's at the "center" and the "outside" is it's opposite?
Actually, I think you're right, tho...
I forgot that the proton is the center constant of the calculation.
It reduces the neg charge of the electron(s), reducing the excitation level of the electron/neutron system.
Increasing charge differential between it and other like electron/neutron systems.
Should have followed my own "sliding scale on a scale" advice...:-)
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (1) Mar 22, 2017
...
Actually, I think you're right, tho...
I forgot that the proton is the center constant of the calculation.
It reduces the neg charge of the electron(s), reducing the excitation level of the electron/neutron system.
Increasing charge differential between it and other like electron/neutron systems.
Should have followed my own "sliding scale on a scale" advice...:-)

Nope, had it right the first time. The proton is the "giant gorilla" of mass (unlike the electron), therefore (way) more affected (cuz more surface area) by temperature.
Reduced temp of proton causes reduction of excitation of the system. Reduction of electron field pulls other higher charged fields toward it...
and quarks are INSIDE the "big gorilla", therefore not relevant to the observational reference of proton, electron and temperature.

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