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Satellite testing of a gravitationally induced quantum decoherence model

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Science  04 Oct 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6461, pp. 132-135
DOI: 10.1126/science.aay5820

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A test of quantum gravity

Quantum mechanics and the general theory of relativity represent two pillars of modern physics, but unification of the two theories remains an open problem. Theories of quantum gravity abound, but they tend to lack an experimental foundation. One such proposed theory, event formalism, predicts that a pair of entangled particles decorrelate as they pass through different regions of the gravitational well of a planetary object. Xu et al. present results of a quantum optical test of this proposal using the quantum satellite Micius. Using entangled photon pairs, one sent to the satellite and the other retained on Earth, they find no evidence for the predicted decorrelation effects. The results may help shed light on the interplay between quantum theory and gravity.

Science, this issue p. 132

Abstract

Quantum mechanics and the general theory of relativity are two pillars of modern physics. However, a coherent unified framework of the two theories remains an open problem. Attempts to quantize general relativity have led to many rival models of quantum gravity, which, however, generally lack experimental foundations. We report a quantum optical experimental test of event formalism of quantum fields, a theory that attempts to present a coherent description of quantum fields in exotic spacetimes containing closed timelike curves and ordinary spacetime. We experimentally test a prediction of the theory with the quantum satellite Micius that a pair of time-energy–entangled particles probabilistically decorrelate passing through different regions of the gravitational potential of Earth. Our measurement results are consistent with the standard quantum theory and hence do not support the prediction of event formalism.

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