Perhaps the most notable feature of quantum mechanics is the lack of space: Measure a single particle in a compact pair where its partner is miles away, and the scale seems to tear apart space to touch its partner faster. This “spooky act far and wide” (Albert Einstein called it) primarily focused on quantum theory experimentation.
“Not living in a place is amazing. I mean, it’s like magic,” says Adán Cabello, a physicist at the university in Spain.
But Cabello and others are interested in investigating a lesser-known but equally magical aspect of quantum mechanics: contextual structure. Contextuality states that particle structures, such as their shape or polarization separation, exist only within the context of the scale. Instead of thinking of the elements as being fixed, think of them as words in a language; their meanings may change depending on the context: “Time flies like an arrow. Fruits fly like bananas.”
Although the status quo has lived in the shadow of non-resilience for more than 50 years, quantum physicists now consider it a remarkable feature of quantum systems rather than the unavailability of space. For example, one particle is a quantum system “that you can’t even imagine without space,” since the particle is in only one place, says Bárbara Amaral, a physicist at the University of São Paulo in Brazil. “So [the situation] is very common in some way, and I think this is important to understand the power of quantum systems and to get deeper into why quantum theory is like this.”
Researchers have found intriguing links between the situation and problems that quantum computers can solve just as standard computers can; investigating these links can help researchers develop new quantum computer systems and algorithms.
And with interest in renewed theory comes a renewed exploratory effort to prove that our world does have context. In February, Cabello, in collaboration with Kihwan Kim at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, published a paper in which he said he had conducted the first seamless test.