One of its most famous paradoxes, “Maxwell’s Monster” has become a symbol of this fight against the oppressive laws of physics. And now it turns out that the monster is also going to be a problem for the future of computing. Thermodynamics is a losing game. No matter what you do, no system will be able to run without losing power.
In 1867, physicist James Clark Maxwell was trying to figure out how the second law of thermodynamics could be violated. The test of his thinking was played by an entity known as a “monster” in charge of two ships full of air at different temperatures. If the two are in contact with each other and separated from the rest of the universe, they will eventually reach equilibrium and have the same temperature. Here the monster enters.
By closing and opening a small door, the monster can violate the laws of thermodynamics to prevent the system from balancing. The connection between the two ships can be opened and closed. This hypotonic monster has incredibly sharp concepts and can identify both high and low energy molecules.
Information is not a perfect abstract, it has a physical meaning. Data manipulation has a thermodynamic effect, in particular, deleting data reveals heat. Our monster does not have to remember all the particles in the system, only a certain force that moves to the door. Once they pass, he may forget them. And this simple act of forgetting releases heat. The demon’s work in trying to break the second law is balanced by the demon’s memory.
In particular, there is a distinct focus on how information is obtained by monsters and how it is driven. This brings an important realization in the twentieth century. The information must comply with the laws of thermodynamics. These come because computers do nothing but interfere with information. The more the paradox is broken, the more we question the nature of the monster. Over the years, the essence of this monster has become more like an instrument than a mysterious creature.
This heat exposure for deleting data is known as the limit of Landauer’s. Our computers, smartphones, and tablets are still very imperfect to be affected by it, but that doesn’t mean it won’t become a problem in the future.
The limitations of regular computing can be expected to be resolved through quantum computing, but a new study published in the Physical Review Letter shows that the giant’s reach far exceeds expectations. The limit is small but it can be measured and at the current rate of computer progress it will become a big problem in 2050.
In the work, researchers at Trinity College Dublin have shown that due to the smoothness of quantum mechanics, it is quite possible that the heat emitted as a result of erasing data even after the creation of an ideal quantum computer is much higher than the limit of Landauer’s.
“We asked:‘ What difference would this unique quantum feature make to the deleted protocol? ’And the answer was something we didn’t expect. We’ve found that because of quantum superposition – even in a standard deletion protocol – you find very rare cases that move heat far beyond the boundaries of the Landauer’s, “said veteran author Professor John Gold in a statement.
“On paper, we prove mathematically that these phenomena exist and that it is a unique quantum property. This is a highly unusual probe that could be really important for heat management in future quantum chips – although much more needs to be done, especially in rapid operation and thermodynamics analysis of other gate implementations.” Now the question is can we push the monster for a long time to solve this terrible problem? Only time will tell.