Simulating quantum field theory with a quantum computer

John Preskill
Forthcoming exascale digital computers will further advance our knowledge of quantum chromodynamics, but formidable challenges will remain. In particular, Euclidean Monte Carlo methods are not well suited for studying real-time evolution in hadronic collisions, or the properties of hadronic matter at nonzero temperature and chemical potential. Digital computers may never be able to achieve accurate simulations of such phenomena in QCD and other strongly-coupled field theories; quantum computers will do so eventually, though I’m not sure when. Progress toward quantum simulation of quantum field theory will require the collaborative efforts of quantumists and field theorists, and though the physics payoff may still be far away, it’s worthwhile to get started now. Today’s research can hasten the arrival of a new era in which quantum simulation fuels rapid progress in fundamental physics.

Mechanical resonance: 300 years from discovery to the full understanding of its importance

Jörn Bleck-Neuhaus
Starting from the observation that the simplest form of forced mechanical oscillation serves as a standard model for analyzing a broad variety of resonance processes in many fields of physics and engineering, the remarkably slow development leading to this insight is reviewed. Forced oscillations and mechanical resonance were already described by Galileo early in the 17th century, even though he misunderstood them. The phenomenon was then completely ignored by Newton but was partly rediscovered in the 18th century, as a purely mathematical surprise, by Euler. Not earlier than in the 19th century did Thomas Young give the first correct description. Until then, forced oscillations were not investigated for the purpose of understanding the motion of a pendulum, or of a mass on a spring, or the acoustic resonance, but in the context of the ocean tides. Thus, in the field of pure mechanics the results by Young had no echo at all. On the other hand, in the 19th century mechanical resonance disasters were observed ever more frequently, e.g. with suspension bridges and steam engines, but were not recognized as such. The equations governing forced mechanical oscillations were then rediscovered in other fields like acoustics and electrodynamics and were later found to play an important role also in quantum mechanics. Only then, in the early 20th century, the importance of the one-dimensional mechanical resonance as a fundamental model process was recognized in various fields, at last in engineering mechanics. There may be various reasons for the enormous time span between the introduction of this simple mechanical phenomenon into science and its due scientific appreciation. One of them can be traced back to the frequently made neglect of friction in the governing equation.

The black hole fifty years after: Genesis of the name

Ann Ewing’s article in 1964 where the term Black Hole is published for the first time

Carlos A. R. Herdeiro, José P. S. Lemos
Black holes are extreme spacetime deformations where even light is imprisoned. There is an extensive astrophysical evidence for the real and abundant existence of these prisons of matter and light in the Universe. Mathematically, black holes are described by solutions of the field equations of the theory of general relativity, the first of which was published in 1916 by Karl Schwarzschild.
Another highly relevant solution, representing a rotating black hole, was found by Roy Kerr in 1963. It was only much after the publication of the Schwarzschild solution, however, that the term black hole was employed to describe these objects. Who invented it?
Conventional wisdom attributes the origin of the term to the prominent North American physicist John Wheeler who first adopted it in a general audience article published in 1968. This, however, is just one side of a story that begins two hundred years before in an Indian prison colloquially known as the Black Hole of Calcutta.
Robert Dicke, also a distinguished physicist and colleague of Wheeler at Princeton University, aware of the prison’s tragedy began, around 1960, to compare gravitationally completely collapsed stars to the black hole of Calcutta. The whole account thus suggests reconsidering who indeed coined the name black hole and commends acknowledging its definitive birth to a partnership between Wheeler and Dicke.

Relativistic spring-mass system

Rodrigo Andrade e Silva, Andre G. S. Landulfo, George E. A. Matsas, Daniel A. T. Vanzella

The harmonic oscillator plays a central role in physics describing the dynamics of a wide range of systems close to stable equilibrium points. The nonrelativistic one-dimensional spring-mass system is considered a prototype representative of it. It is usually assumed and galvanized in textbooks that the equation of motion of a relativistic harmonic oscillator is given by the same equation as the nonrelativistic one with the mass M at the tip multiplied by the relativistic factor 1/(1−v2/c2)1/2. Although the solution of such an equation may depict some physical systems, it does not describe, in general, one-dimensional relativistic spring-mass oscillators under the influence of elastic forces. In recognition to the importance of such a system to physics, we fill a gap in the literature and offer a full relativistic treatment for a system composed of a spring attached to an inertial wall, holding a mass M at the end.


The Science and Legacy of Richard Feynman

Avinash Dhar, Apoorva D. Patel, Spenta R. Wadia
This year is the 100th birth anniversary of Richard Philips Feynman. This article commemorates his scientific contributions and lasting legacy.

… He influenced the way physicists think about physics, especially physical processes whose description requires the quantum theory. Feynman’s approach to physics was to show how the solution to a problem unravels, aided by a visual language that encapsulates complicated mathematical expressions. James Gleick put this very succinctly, “Feynman’s reinvention of quantum mechanics did not so much explain how the world was, or why it was that way, as to tell how to confront the world. It was not knowledge of or knowledge about. It was knowledge how to.” He went to the heart of the problem he was working on, built up the solutions from simple ground rules in a step by step nuts and bolts way, articulating the steps as he built up the solution, keeping in mind that science is highly constrained by the fact that it is a description of the natural world. He laid bare the strategy of the solution, and was explicit about the various difficulties that need to be surmounted, perhaps now or in the next attempt to solve the problem: “In physics the truth is rarely perfectly clear.” Feynman’s attitude to ‘fundamental physics’ is well put in the collection, ‘The Pleasure of Finding Things Out’: “People say to me, ‘Are you looking for the ultimate laws of physics?’ No, I’m not, I’m just looking to find out more about the world, and if it turns out there is a simple ultimate law which explains everything, so be it, that would be very nice to discover.” …


Who discovered positron annihilation?

Positron annihilatioTim Dunker
In the early 1930s, the positron, pair production, and, at last, positron annihilation were discovered. Over the years, several scientists have been credited with the discovery of the annihilation radiation. Commonly, Thibaud and Joliot have received credit for the discovery of positron annihilation. A conversation between Werner Heisenberg and Theodor Heiting prompted me to examine relevant publications, when these were submitted and published, and how experimental results were interpreted in the relevant articles. I argue that it was Theodor Heiting – usually not mentioned at all in relevant publications – who discovered positron annihilation, and that he should receive proper credit.

Is our universe one of many?

As physicists have delved deeper and deeper into nature’s mysteries, they have been forced to accept the unsettling fact that our universe is suspiciously fine-tuned to support life. The amount of matter in the universe, the mass of the electron, the strength of gravity – if the value of any of these deviated only a tiny bit from what they actually are, then galaxies and stars could not form and biological life could not exist. The best theory that physicists have come up with to explain this cosmic coincidence is called the String Theory Landscape.

The String Theory Landscape combines elements from two of the strangest and most enduring ideas in modern physics – string theory and cosmic inflation – to argue that we live in a multiverse made up of infinitely many “pocket universes,” of which our perfectly calibrated universe is just one. This five-part series tells the story of how theoretical physicists at Stanford helped develop the String Theory Landscape – and in the process sparked a fierce and still ongoing debate about what science is and what it should be…