No, tardigrades have not been quantum entangled with a qubit


Has a tardigrade been quantum entangled? Not so quick.


Last week, studies trickled out that a tardigrade, one of the hardy animals we all know of, did one thing extraordinary: It turned the primary multicellular organism to be “quantum entangled” and survive. The tardigrade’s invincibility is the stuff of legend, so it is not all that shocking to listen to it could have endured an encounter with the quantum world.


The studies stemmed from a analysis paper uploaded to the preprint examine repository arXiv. The paper, which is but to be peer-reviewed, set off a flurry of tweets, on-line commentary and screenshots of a paywalled New Scientist piece accompanied by a sense of bewilderment and pleasure. The tardigrade had added one other notch to its belt.

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Or had it? Had the animal actually been quantum entangled? As physicists started to weigh in, the reply turned a little messier however consensus appeared to, fairly shortly, snuff out the thought of tardigrade ‘tanglement.

“Given that the outcomes of the entanglement course of could possibly be reproduced describing the influence of the tardigrade classically — that’s, with out entanglement — I believe that’s the case right here,” stated John Bartholomew, a quantum {hardware} developer on the University of Sydney.


Let’s attempt to clarify.

Quantum tardigrades

The tardigrade is a microscopic invertebrate recognized to outlive a number of the most excessive circumstances people have thrown at it. The vacuum of area? Easy mode for tardigrades. Freezing? Radiation? Tardigrades survive that, too — due to their capacity to enter a state akin to suspended animation, generally known as the “tun state.”

Tun tardigrades look just about lifeless… however they are not. Their metabolism drops to nearly zero (they turn into “ametabolic”) and so they can stay in that state, some experiments have prompt, for many years. Those traits make the critters a good selection for this specific experiment as a result of quantum computer systems require extraordinarily chilly temperatures to function.

The quantum world is admittedly unusual and to know this experiment we have to (strive) to know it. It’s a place the place our understanding of physics begins to interrupt down. 


Quantum entanglement is a bizarre quirk of this world which may see two issues — like electrons — linked in a approach that basically means they can’t be described individually. It’s a troublesome, mind-bending idea and, after talking to a number of consultants about this, I nonetheless wrestle to know it.

A qubit is a quantum system and that has two attainable states, type of like a traditional laptop bit might be a 0 or a 1. If you hyperlink up two qubits, you possibly can create a new two qubit system the place the qubits may exist in each states directly. You might have qubit A be a 0/1 and qubit B be a 0/1 however it will be inconceivable to say what state both qubit is in earlier than measuring them.

Confused? Well, that is okay. What you must know is that on this preprint examine, the researchers declare they have been capable of entangle a qubit with a tardigrade. In their experiment, they created this two qubit system described above and positioned a tardigrade excessive of 1 qubit (B). They left the opposite qubit  (A) tardigrade free. Placing the tardigrade on high of qubit B, the researchers say, shifted its frequency down. This, they counsel, is proof of entanglement.

Other physicists disagree. 

“For entanglement to be significant … you have to have some inner state that you are looking at,” says Douglas Natelson, a professor of physics at Rice University in Texas. Natelson documented his ideas in a short blog post. “This is not “quantum biology”,” he wrote. 

Simply put, the presence of the tardigrade on high of qubit B may alter the qubit’s frequency however that does not imply the microscopic crawler has turn into entangled with the qubit. To communicate to entanglement, you’d need to measure the quantum properties of the tardigrade which the experiment does not do. 

You might simply as simply substitute the tardigrade with mud within the experiment and also you’d would see a comparable impact on the qubit. 

If all of that went over your head (and to be honest, I get it), then maybe the best approach to perceive this complete quantum tardigrade mess comes through experimental physicist Ben Brubaker, who wrote a comprehensive thread on the subject: “The wording of the paper very strongly suggests claims a lot stronger than the information can help,” he wrote. 

CNET reached out to Rainer Dumke, a quantum physicist at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore who led the examine, however did not obtain a response. 


Though the entanglement facet seems to be deceptive on the very least, there’s one other spectacular facet of the experiment that ought to have tardigrade followers as soon as once more applauding the little beast’s near-invincibility.

The researchers report that, with the intention to carry out their experiment, the tardigrade survived probably the most excessive circumstances it has ever been topic to. Operating quantum techniques requires ultra-cold temperatures, barely above absolute zero (-459 levels Fahrenheit). In this case, the plucky little animal’s temperature sat at this temperature and at extraordinarily low pressures for over 17 days. 

The workforce causes this exhibits metabolic processes are fully stopped in tun state tardigrades. At such low temperatures, chemical reactions turn into inconceivable. Thus, the tardigrade is basically frozen in time: Its inner biology has stopped.

Once the experiment was over, the workforce returned the tardigrade to regular atmospheric strain and temperature and rehydrated the invertebrate in water. What a number of the studies are lacking is the very fact this course of was carried out thrice, every with a completely different tardigrade. Only as soon as was the tardigrade efficiently revived, when the return from extraordinarily low strain to room strain (and temperature) occurred “gently.”

While the quantum entanglement headlines are thrilling they’re, sadly, deceptive. The actual headline right here is that scientists have proven as soon as once more simply how hardy a tardigrade might be — and maybe, Bartholomew says, this paper might open the door to incorporating the tardigrade into different quantum experiments sooner or later.

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