An international team of researchers claims to have successfully carried out the first “quantum entanglement” experiment of a multicellular organism.
The team, whose research was recently published in a prepress paper, says he managed to place a tardigrade, a small creature affectionately known as a “water bear,” into a state of quantum entanglement between a pair of superconducting qubits.
In other words: the researchers managed to put a tardigrade into a state where it was directly connected to the qubits in such a way that anything that happens to the water bear or the qubits would simultaneously affect all three.
This is a fundamental property of quantum computing. But this type of quantum function generally only occurs with particle-sized objects. Researchers have put single-celled organisms in a quantum entangled state before, but this would be the first time scientists have done so with a complex biological organism.
However, there is some debate about the importance of team efforts. According to the researchers’ article:
We observe the coupling between the cryptobiosis animal and a superconducting quantum bit and prepare a highly entangled state between this combined system and another qubit. The tardigrade itself is shown to be entangled with the remaining subsystems. The animal is then observed to return to its active form after 420 hours at temperatures below 10 mK and a pressure of 6 × 10−6 mbar, setting a new record for the conditions in which a complex life form can survive. .
There’s a lot to unravel there, but first and foremost: other physicists are criticizing this work from the start because of what appears to be a vague definition of “entanglement.”
What spotted by Brandon Specktor from Live Science, the rumor on social media seems to be completely skeptical:
The qubit is an electrical circuit and putting the tardigrade next to it affects it through the laws of electromagnetism that we have known for more than 150 years. Putting a speck of dust next to the qubit would have a similar effect.
11 / n
– Ben Brubaker (@benbenbrubaker) December 18, 2021
But, as Specktor also points out, all of this is likely to be resolved in a peer review. For now, let’s talk about the experiment itself.
The nightmare before christmas
Tardigrades are among the hardiest creatures we know of. They can enter a state of suspended animation in which they have no observable biological functions to survive in extremely harsh environments.
It is for this reason that scientists decided to try to integrate them with quantum bits in a circuit. The idea is pretty basic. You freeze the tardigrades to the point where they are close to absolute zero, and then you can put them in a state of entanglement like any other super cool particle.
However, because tardigrades are living things, the story is a bit more visceral than the standard “we entangle multiple photons” experiment variety.
According to the team document, these particular tardigrades were “collected in February 2018 from a roof gutter in Niva, Denmark.”
So to sum it up, a group of humans in white coats abducted a group of cute little water bears, who were already living in a gutter literally, and then exposed them to the coldest temperatures a tardigrade has ever experienced before forcing them into three. shape entanglement with superconducting qubits.
The team was able to revive one of the tardigrades who successfully participated in what they call entanglement. But as for the others, the researchers wrote, “We wish to point out that it is very important for the resurgence of the animal to gently change the external temperature and pressure.”
Rest in power, little bears of science, we will never forget you.
Further reading: physicists could have created quantum entanglement in bacteria