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量子世界|《经济学人》:存在是一种缥缈,缥缈也是一种存在

2017-03-17 从余启 我与我们的世界 我与我们的世界

欢迎打开“我与我们的世界”,从此,让我们一起“纵览世界之风云变幻、洞察社会之脉搏律动、感受个体之生活命运、挖掘自然之点滴奥妙”。

我与我们的世界,既是一个“奋斗”的世界,也是一个“思考”的世界。奋而不思则罔,思而不奋则殆。这个世界,你大,它就大;你小,它就小。

欢迎通过上方公众号名称打开公众号“查看历史信息”来挖掘往期文章,因为,每期都能让你“走近”不一样的世界、带给你不一样的精彩


本期导读:纵观人类社会的历史进程,正是一次次的科技进步,给人类社会的发展注入了一次又一次的动力,进而对人类生活水平的提升起到了决定性作用。每一次突破性的技术进步,总能把人类送入一个全新的时代


20世纪初开始向人类逐渐拨开面纱但到目前依然犹抱琵琶半遮面的量子世界,是一个充满各种奥妙和神奇现象的世界。那些奥妙和神奇的各种现象,如此超乎我们日常的经验和想象,以至于,现有的语言都无法对其进行描述和形容。


如此不可思议的量子世界,却又无时不在、无所不在。量子世界存在着五花八门的美轮美奂,量子力学展现着前所未有的丰富内涵,量子理论颠覆着经久耐用的各种经典,量子技术创造着各式各样的离奇玄幻。


小小量子,牵出来量子力学、量子理论、量子叠加、量子纠缠、量子世界等这么一大长串,并在此基础上,在未来,能给人类带来一个全新的天地和世界


Subatomic opportunities

小小原子内的大世界


Quantum leaps

跳跃的量子实现了飞跃


The strangeness of the quantum realm opens up exciting new technological possibilities

量子领域的奇特景象,将为科技进步带来各种潜在可能,这很令人振奋


A BATHING cap that can watch individual neurons, allowing others to monitor the wearer’s mind. A sensor that can spot hidden nuclear submarines. A computer that can discover new drugs, revolutionise securities trading and design new materials. A global network of communication links whose security is underwritten by unbreakable physical laws. Such—and more—is the promise of quantum technology.

能通过观察各个神经元对穿戴者的精神状态进行监测的泳帽,能对隐遁的核潜艇进行识别定位的感应器,能在新药发掘、证券交易革新、新材料设计领域大显身手的计算机,基于确凿无疑的物理定律建设安全无忧的全球通信网络,所有这一切,甚至还有更多,都将是量子技术所能为人类成就的。


All this potential arises from improvements in scientists’ ability to trap, poke and prod single atoms and wispy particles of light called photons. Today’s computer chips get cheaper and faster as their features get smaller, but quantum mechanics says that at tiny enough scales, particles sail through solids, short-circuiting the chip’s innards. Quantum technologies come at the problem from the other direction. Rather than scale devices down, quantum technologies employ the unusual behaviours of single atoms and particles and scale them up. Like computerisation before it, this unlocks a world of possibilities, with applications in nearly every existing industry—and the potential to spark entirely new ones.

所有这些潜在的革新,将都源于科学家在对单个原子或光子进行捕捉、干涉、刺激等方面所取得的技术进步。目前,电脑芯片价格越来越低、速度越来越快、体积越来越小,而根据量子力学理论,小到一定级别,粒子就能在固体中自由穿梭,可对芯片的内部结构完全“无视”。量子技术处理问题采用的是另一种路径,量子技术不是在如何让设备变小的问题上做文章,而是基于单个原子或粒子的非常规特性,把它们放大。就如之前计算机化为人类打开了一个崭新的世界一样,量子化也将把人类带入另一个完全不同的世界,不仅能应用于现有的所有行业领域,而且还能促生全新的行业领域。


Strange but true

离奇得难以置信,真实得难以质疑


Quantum mechanics—a theory of the behaviour at the atomic level put together in the early 20th century—has a well-earned reputation for weirdness. That is because the world as humanity sees it is not, in fact, how the world works. Quantum mechanics replaced wholesale the centuries-old notion of a clockwork, deterministic universe with a reality that deals in probabilities rather than certainties—one where the very act of measurement affects what is measured. Along with that upheaval came a few truly mind-bending implications, such as the fact that particles are fundamentally neither here nor there but, until pinned down, both here and there at the same time: they are in a “superposition” of here-there-ness. The theory also suggested that particles can be spookily linked: do something to one and the change is felt instantaneously by the other, even across vast reaches of space. This “entanglement” confounded even the theory’s originators.

量子力学,20世纪初基于原子层级粒子行为的各项研究而形成的一种理论,因其所具有的各种离奇或不可思议而扬名。因为,人们所看到的运行着的世界,实际上并不是世界真实的运行方式。几个世纪以来,人们一直认为,我们所处的宇宙,是一个具有规律性、确定性的宇宙,而量子力学颠覆了这样的观点,向人们呈现出这样一种事实:我们所处的宇宙,是一个概率性的宇宙,而非确定性的宇宙,任何测量行为,其本身就会影响到被测量的东西。随着物理学发生颠覆性革新,也出现了各种特别“烧脑”的客观现象,比如,从根本上讲,粒子的存在其实既不会在这里也不会在那里,除非对其识别定位,否则粒子同时既可以存在于这里也可以存在于那里:粒子处在一种“既在这里又在那里-既不在这里又不在那里”的“叠加态”。量子理论也表明,粒子之间可存在一种有如幽灵般的感应:对某一粒子施加特定影响,该影响会几乎同时被另一粒子所感应到,即使两个粒子之间隔着广袤无垠的空间。这种“纠缠”现象,连量子力学的鼻祖们也为之感到困惑。


It is exactly these effects that show such promise now: the techniques that were refined in a bid to learn more about the quantum world are now being harnessed to put it to good use. Gizmos that exploit superposition and entanglement can vastly outperform existing ones—and accomplish things once thought to be impossible.

也正是这些现象,目前展现出一种前途无量:探索量子世界所取得的各项技术进步,现在正被派上用场,将会大展宏图。基于量子叠加和量子纠缠而开发出来的新型设备,会普遍比现有设备功能强大,也能完成以往认为不可能完成的任务。


Improving atomic clocks by incorporating entanglement, for example, makes them more accurate than those used today in satellite positioning. That could improve navigational precision by orders of magnitude, which would make self-driving cars safer and more reliable. And because the strength of the local gravitational field affects the flow of time (according to general relativity, another immensely successful but counter-intuitive theory), such clocks would also be able to measure tiny variations in gravity. That could be used to spot underground pipes without having to dig up the road, or track submarines far below the waves.

比如,用量子纠缠对计量仪表进行改进,能让其比现在用于卫星定位的仪器更为精准。利用量子纠缠也能让巡航精度实现数量级式的提升,这项技术也能让自动驾驶更安全可靠。而且,因为当地引力场的强度会影响到时间流(依照的是广义相对论,另一套非常成功但同时又非常出人意料的理论),这种基于量子纠缠得到改进的仪表,也将能实现对引力的微小变化进行测量。这项技术同时也可实现不用开掘道路便可探测地下管道,或对海底深处的潜艇进行跟踪。


Other aspects of quantum theory permit messaging without worries about eavesdroppers. Signals encoded using either superposed or entangled particles cannot be intercepted, duplicated and passed on. That has obvious appeal to companies and governments the world over. China has already launched a satellite that can receive and reroute such signals; a global, unhackable network could eventually follow.

量子理论,也能让信息传递安全无忧,免除被窃听的风险。利用量子叠加或量子纠缠粒子编码过的信号,将不再有可能被中途拦截、复制或转递。这对世界范围内的各个公司以及政府来说,显然是梦寐以求的。中国已经发射了一颗能够接收并传输这种信号的卫星。可以想象得到,一套不会遭到黑客攻击的全球性网络最终会建立起来。


The advantageous interplay between odd quantum effects reaches its zenith in quantum computers. Rather than the 0s and 1s of standard computing, a quantum computer’s bits are in superpositions of both, and each “qubit” is entangled with every other. Using algorithms that recast problems in quantum-amenable forms, such computers will be able to chomp their way through calculations that would take today’s best supercomputers millennia. Even as high-security quantum networks are being developed, a countervailing worry is that quantum computers will eventually render obsolete today’s cryptographic techniques, which are based on hard mathematical problems.

各种离奇古怪的量子效应之间互相作用所能产生的最优效果,可在量子计算机中得以体现。与标准计算中只有0态和1态不同,量子计算机的信息单位是一种既处于0态也处于1态的“叠加态”,每一“量子信息单位”与其他的所有量子信息单位的每一个都处于纠缠状态。量子计算机通过把需要计算的问题运用特定的运算规则纳入量子形式,让用现有最强超级计算机需要上千年才能完成的计算,也会变成小菜一碟。具有高度安全性的网络正在开发中,但随之产生的一个令人担忧的问题是,量子计算机最终将会使得现今所使用的密码技术成为废物,因为,现在的密码技术所依靠的高难度数学问题,在量子计算机面前将都会不堪一击。


Long before that happens, however, smaller quantum computers will make other contributions in industries from energy and logistics to drug design and finance. Even simple quantum computers should be able to tackle classes of problems that choke conventional machines, such as optimising trading strategies or plucking promising drug candidates from scientific literature. Google said last week that such machines are only five years from commercial exploitability. This week IBM, which already runs a publicly accessible, rudimentary quantum computer, announced expansion plans. As our Technology Quarterly in this issue explains, big tech firms and startups alike are developing software to exploit these devices’ curious abilities. A new ecosystem of middlemen is emerging to match new hardware to industries that might benefit.

不过,那会是很久之后的事了。在那之前,小型量子计算机将对各个行业,从能源到物流、再到药物设计和财政金融,带来深刻影响。即使是简单型的量子计算机,也将能让传统计算机感到有运算压力的各等级问题,得到轻松处理,如对各类交易策略组合的优化,或从海量科研文献中搜寻潜在目标药物。谷歌公司上周表示,此类量子计算机再有五年便能投入商业应用。IBM已有一台对公共开放的基本型量子计算机在运行,本周又宣布了多项扩容计划。正如我们本期杂志《科技季报》所报道的,大型技术公司和新兴技术公司都在开发相关软件来应用量子计算机的这些能力。一套新的中介性生态系统正在兴起,以在新硬件与受益行业之间建立起联系。


The solace of quantum

在当前这个不确定性爆棚的伤感年代,量子技术进步给人们带来了些许安慰感


This landscape has much in common with the state of the internet in the early 1990s: a largely laboratory-based affair that had occupied scientists for decades, but in which industry was starting to see broader potential. Blue-chip firms are buying into it, or developing their own research efforts. Startups are multiplying. Governments are investing “strategically”, having paid for the underlying research for many years—a reminder that there are some goods, such as blue-sky scientific work, that markets cannot be relied upon to provide.

现在的这种状况,与1990年代早期互联网刚开始崛起的时候颇有相似之处:经过科学家们几十年的研究之后,基本上还处于实验室阶段的一个东西,各个行业却已开始注意到其所具有的广泛潜能。蓝芯类公司都已参与其中,或独立搞自己的研发。相关新兴公司也如雨后春笋。各国政府也都在该行业进行“战略性”投资,而且对基础性研发也已投入多年。这不禁让人感慨,确实有些好的东西,比如如何让天更蓝等科研工作,市场是靠不住的,需要靠政府。


Fortunately for quantum technologists, the remaining challenges are mostly engineering ones, rather than scientific. And today’s quantum-enhanced gizmos are just the beginning. What is most exciting about quantum technology is its as yet untapped potential. Experts at the frontier of any transformative technology have a spotty record of foreseeing many of the uses it will find; Thomas Edison thought his phonograph’s strength would lie in elocution lessons. For much of the 20th century “quantum” has, in the popular consciousness, simply signified “weird”. In the 21st, it will come to mean “better”.

对量子技术人员来说,幸运的是,剩下的挑战大多都是工程性的,而非科研性的。而且,当下与量子沾边儿的各种设备,也都只是个开始。量子技术最令人振奋之处在于,它那还没进行开发的各种潜能。历史经验表明,即使处于任何变革性技术前沿的专家,对该技术所具有的很多潜在用处,也都是预测不准的。爱迪生就曾认为,他所发明的留声机的最大用处,会是在演讲课堂上。20世纪的大部分期间,在普罗大众看来,“量子”只是意味着“离奇”。在21世纪,量子将意味着“神奇”。



往期精彩:


生命之谜|施一公:生命之源或缘于35亿年前的一团量子纠缠,人类认知或囿于自身生命的物质形式局限

革命的意义|《经济学人》:革命可以无罪,造反亦可有理

全球青年报告|《瓦尔基基金会》:青年就是太阳,青年就是希望

遥望世界2050|《普华永道》:中国和印度,将领跑全球

诗图一家|《冬去春来》:冬之寒冷,孕育春之温暖

造人那点事儿|《经济学人》:造人途径有N种,该选哪一种?


注:

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