/Meet the Intern Using Quantum Computing to Study the Early Universe

Meet the Intern Using Quantum Computing to Study the Early Universe

Summary: Juliette Stecenko is using modern supercomputers and quantum computing platforms to perform astronomy simulations that may help us better understand where we came from.

Original author and publication date: Erika Peters – May 15, 2020

Futurizonte Editor’s Note: It is good to see young people interest in knowing where we came from because it means they are also interested in knowing where we are going to. That is a solid base for being hopeful.

Juliette Stecenko worked with Michael McGuigan of the Computational Science Initiative to develop a quantum computing approach for tackling cosmological questions by breaking them into smaller problems. Credit: Juliette Stecenko

From the article:

With the help of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, Juliette Stecenko is exploring cosmology—a branch of astronomy that investigates the origin and evolution of the universe, from the Big Bang to today and into the future. As an intern through DOE’s Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship [https://www.bnl.gov/education/programs/program.php?q=188]s (SULI) program, administered at Brookhaven by the Office of Educational Programs https://www.bnl.gov/education/, Stecenko is using modern supercomputers and quantum computing platforms to perform astronomy simulations that may help us better understand where we came from.

Stecenko works under the guidance of Michael McGuigan, a computational scientist in the quantum computing group at Brookhaven’s Computational Science Initiative [https://www.bnl.gov/compsci/]. The two have been collaborating on simulating Casimir energy—a small force that two electrically neutral surfaces held a tiny distance apart will experience from quantum, atomic, or subatomic fluctuations in the vacuum of space. The vacuum energy of the universe and the Casimir pressure of this energy could be a possible explanation of the origin and evolution of the universe, as well a possible cause of its accelerated expansion.

“Casimir energy is something scientists can measure in the laboratory and is especially important for nanoscience, or in cosmology, in the very early universe when the universe was very small,” McGuigan said.

When looking at systems that are small, such as the early universe, this type of energy becomes much more important than it is at the macro-scales we are used to experiencing, he added.

“The energy is inversely proportional to size,” McGuigan said.

For the cosmological applications that Stecenko and McGuigan are studying, Casimir energy is something that is not well understood.

“It’s a form of energy that is present even if there are no charges or particles in the electromagnetic field,” McGuigan said. “We found we could simulate this on a quantum computer.”

Quantum computers use computer technology based on the principles of quantum theory, which explains the nature and behavior of energy and matter at the smallest scales.

“One of the important traits Juliette found, which wasn’t known before, was that when we tried to represent this energy or any of the energies on the quantum computer, it could take an enormous number of terms,” McGuigan said.

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