The Bridges Team at the Office of Science and Technology, Austria Washington DC.
Quantum experiments designed by machines
After a few hours of calculation, their algorithm – which they call Melvin – found the recipe to the question they were unable to solve, and its structure surprised them. Zeilinger says: “Suppose I want build an experiment realizing a specific quantum state I am interested in. Then humans intuitively consider setups reflecting the symmetries of the state. Yet Melvin found out that the most simple realization can be asymmetric and therefore counterintuitive. A human would probably never come up with that solution.”
The Algorithm Melvin found out that the most simple realization can be asymmetric and therefore counterintuitive (Copyright: Robert Fickler, Universität Wien).
The physicists applied the idea to several other questions and got dozens of new and surprising answers. “The solutions are difficult to understand, but we were able to extract some new experimental tricks we have not thought of before. Some of these computer-designed experiments are being built at the moment in our laboratories”, says Krenn.
Melvin not only tries random arrangements of experimental components, but also learns from previous successful attempts, which significantly speeds up the discovery rate for more complex solutions. In the future, the authors want to apply their algorithm to even more general questions in quantum physics, and hope it helps to investigate new phenomena in laboratories.
The research was supported by Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW), the European Research Council and the Austrian Science Fund (FWF).
Disclaimer: article was originally published in Physical Review Letters.