X-Message-Number: 11604
Date: Fri, 23 Apr 1999 22:45:30 EDT
Subject: phonons, quantum computing, etc.

A couple of days ago I posted a thought that had occurred to me: 

In "phonons" we have quantum phenomena underlain (caused by) classical 
phenomena, viz. the interactions of the molecules of the medium after a 
disturbance at a boundary, giving rise to waves. Of course, those classical 
molecular interactions are usually thought of nowadays as underlain in turn 
by more elemental quantum phenomena--but are we not left, nevertheless, with 
the suggestion that there may, after all, be classical hidden variables 
beneath quantum effects? 

Now it turns out that others have had the same thought for many years, even 
though apparently it has not made much of an impression in the physics 
community. I have been doing further reading in QUANTICS, by Jean-Marc 
Levy-Leblond and Francoise Balibar (North-Holland, 1990, translated from the 
French by S. Twareque Ali). They speak of "fundamental quantons" such as 
photons or electrons and "phenomenological quantons" such as phonons, 
polarons, magnons, and rotons; they point out that these two types can 
interact, e.g. neutrons scattered by phonons; they say very explicitly that 
the quantum theory in all its generality applies as much to phenomenological 
quantons as to fundamental quantons; and they say finally:

"A quanton which appears as fundamental to us, such as an electron, could in 
fact be an 'elementary excitation'  of some yet unknown underlying medium--a 
sort of a modern aether. This idea has inspired several theories, currently 
being discussed, with a view to unifying and deepening the physics of  
fundamental particles."

Well! So my speculation, although original, wasn't novel. That is more 
gratifying than disappointing, and it shows yet again that you don't have to 
be a genius to have an insight; or you don't have to know every tree to see 
the forest. 

Now another thought occurs to me, somewhat belatedly, and very likely it 
isn't novel either: Could phonons--or other "quantons" emergent from 
classical processes--be used for quantum computation? If so, it might have 
some practical importance, and would also tend to throw cold water on the 
many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. If necessary, I will try to 
investigate the details myself; but I hope someone better qualified will 
either do it or tell me why it can't be done.

And please don't ask me how string theory ties in; I'm barely started on 
that, even though I already have quarrels with some of Prof. Greene's 

I will, however, say something about the relevance to cryonics and life in 
general, if that is demanded.

Robert Ettinger
Cryonics Institute
Immortalist Society

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