Gamers Rise to Physics Challenge: In Quantum Task, Humans Find Strategies Computers Miss

By Conover, Emily | Science News, May 14, 2016 | Go to article overview

Gamers Rise to Physics Challenge: In Quantum Task, Humans Find Strategies Computers Miss


Conover, Emily, Science News


Human intuition might seem useless in the weird world of quantum mechanics. It's a peculiar realm in which particles can be in multiple places at once and can tunnel through barriers that should be impenetrable. But in a quantum-inspired game, humans bested computers, scientists report in the April 14 Nature.

"To me it is more than surprising--it is really mind-blowing," says physicist Tommaso Calarco of Ulm University in Germany, who was not involved in the study.

The researchers, led by physicist Jacob Sherson of Aarhus University in Denmark, based their game on a quantum computer made of atoms trapped in a grid pattern and enticed gamers into finding the optimal way to shuttle atoms back and forth. In this type of quantum computer, scientists must move the atoms quickly and precisely to make calculations. What the gamers may not have realized is that they were helping researchers edge closer to the "quantum speed limit" set by the laws of physics at the smallest scales, which caps the speed of such calculations.

In the game, known as Quantum Moves, atoms are represented by colored liquid contained in a well. …

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