Quantum choice can be counterproductive | Science News

Real Science. Real News.

Science News is a nonprofit.

Support us by subscribing now.


Quantum choice can be counterproductive

Multiple options could make delivering messages impossible, physicists show

3:29pm, September 22, 2015
too many choices

PARALYZED BY CHOICE  Having too many options can make everyday decisions difficult. But choice makes some tasks impossible in the quantum world, new research shows.

When abiding by the laws of quantum physics, having options can make an otherwise simple task impossible. A new paper demonstrates that transmitting quantum messages becomes more difficult if the intended recipient offers the sender multiple options for the time and place of delivery.

The strange finding, described online September 16 at arXiv.org, joins other paradoxes such as Schrödinger’s simultaneously dead and alive cat in highlighting the counterintuitive situations allowed by the rules of quantum physics. While the idea of being paralyzed by choice isn’t new (think of trying to pick a meal from an eight-page menu), only in the quantum world can freedom make tasks totally unachievable. “I’m still not quite entirely sure why it works, but I accept that it does,” says MIT quantum physicist Seth Lloyd. “They get full grades for weirdness and paradoxicality.”

Physicists may have to

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now.
Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content