Quantum information, the ambiguity of the past, and the complexity of the present
Speaker(s): Charles Bennett
Abstract: Entanglement provides a coherent view of the physical origin of randomness and the growth and decay of correlations, even in macroscopic systems exhibiting few traditional quantum hallmarks. It helps explain why the future is more uncertain than the past, and how correlations can become macroscopic and classical by being redundantly replicated throughout a system's environment. The most private information, exemplified by a quantum eraser experiment, exists only transiently: after the experiment is over no record remains anywhere in the universe of what "happened". At the other extreme is information that has been so widely replicated as to be infeasible to conceal and unlikely to be forgotten. But such conspicuous information is exceptional: a comparison of entropy flows into and out of the Earth with estimates of the planet's storage capacity leads to the conclusion that most macroscopic classical information---for example the pattern of drops in last week's rainfall---is impermanent, eventually becoming nearly as ambiguous, from a terrestrial perspective, as the transient result of a quantum eraser experiment. Finally we discuss prerequisites for a system to accumulate and maintain in its present state, as our world does, a complex and redundant record of at least some features of its past. Not all dynamics and initial conditions lead to this behavior, and in those that do, the behavior itself tends to be temporary, with the system losing its memory, and even its classical character, as it relaxes to thermal equilibrium.
Date: 12/05/2011 - 9:30 am
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