By Hamish Johnston
This morning on BBC Radio 4, the mathematician Roger Penrose, physicist Basil Hiley, and philosopher Simon Saunders had a lively discussion about the “measurement problem in physics” with broadcaster Melvyn Bragg.
You can listen to it here
I got to thinking that the growing interest in building quantum computers and other information systems has put a practical spin on the measurement problem.
The “problem” the open question of how (or even if) a measurement transforms an entity such as an electron from being a ghostly combination of quantum states to being very definitely in just one state.
Many physicists believe that the clever manipulation of such ghostly combinations could be done in quantum computers, allowing such machines to outperform conventional computers on some tasks.
Such quantum computers would rely on making the right measurements — and avoiding the wrong measurements — so what had been mostly a philosophical/mathematical debate about measurement has a growing technological relevance.