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Quantum computers have failed. So now for the science

Bouncing oil droplets reveal slippery truth behind the magical promises

Wave of correlation

The secret is that the magnetic line of force already sets up a correlation along its length, and this provides the secret sauce. Just as in the droplet experiment, if you have an existing long-range order, then quantum mechanics can arise from an underlying classical model. In particular, we can model the photon as a wave in a classical fluid that obeys Maxwell’s equations and is in quantitative agreement with the predictions of quantum mechanics as measured in the Bell tests.

We're still some way off being able to derive the whole of the Standard Model starting from an underlying classical spacetime. But there is now a whole discipline, called emergent quantum mechanics, which searches for just such models, and some are rather innovative. For example, the Nobel prizewinning physicist Gerard 't Hooft argues that we may be in a virtual universe, in which all the fundamental particles are virtual particles, like Conway's gliders, running on an underlying mesh of cellular automata.

At the other extreme, the Russian physicist Grisha Volovik argues that the quantum vacuum is a superfluid, whose quasiparticles are the fundamental particles that we observe (this is somewhat closer to Maxwell's vision). However we're confident that we've removed a significant conceptual roadblock.

Our paper shows that you don't need multiple universes to explain the weirdness of quantum behaviour, just some form of long-range order in the universe, whether that comes from an underlying computational mesh, the order parameter of a superfluid or perhaps simply from the magnetic fields that pervade the observable universe.

And if reality is analogue all the way down, then quantum computers are just analogue computers, so their failure to deliver magical results is unsurprising. In fact, we'd rather see it as evidence that the emergent quantum mechanics research community may be on the right track. The magic has failed; now let's get on with the science. ®

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