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Why I am not a Platonist: quantum information, life and the universe

Vlatko Vedral

Date Icon Week 6, Tuesday 18 November MT 2014
Time Icon 8:15pm

I will start by introducing the concept of information due to Shannon and will then argue that it actually only starts to make sense within the framework of quantum physics. Here, the key will be the intrinsic randomness existing within all elementary quantum phenomena and which allows for information to be created ex nihilo (out of no prior information). This counterintuitive feature will be seen to be linked with the bizarre quantum effects such as being in two places at the same time as well as the famous “spooky action at the distance” that Einstein alleged quantum physics to permit. The latter is based on the phenomenon of quantum entanglement which all the experiments so far have firmly confirmed. Technologically, entanglement allows us to teleport as well as to perform quantum computations that outperform their classical counterparts. Recent experiments also suggest that living systems might be using entanglement to improve processes such as photosynthesis and magneto-reception. Finally, I will speculate that we should think of quantum information in entangled states also as being behind notions such as time and temperature. This may allow us to understand how the observable universe could have started with low (or no) entropy, but has then adiabatically evolved into states with high entropy such as the current one (which seems to contradict the basic laws of thermodynamics).