Although quantum computers are predicted to have many commercial applications, less attention has been given to their potential for resolving foundational issues in quantum mechanics. Here we focus on quantum computers’ utility for the Consistent Histories formalism, which has previously been employed to study quantum cosmology, quantum paradoxes, and the quantum-to-classical transition. We present a variational hybrid quantum-classical algorithm for finding consistent histories, which should revitalize interest in this formalism by allowing classically impossible calculations to be performed. In our algorithm, the quantum computer evaluates the decoherence functional (with exponential speedup in both the number of qubits and the number of times in the history) and a classical optimizer adjusts the history parameters to improve consistency. We implement our algorithm on a cloud quantum computer to find consistent histories for a spin in a magnetic field and on a simulator to observe the emergence of classicality for a chiral molecule.
The Consistent Histories formalism can solve paradoxes in quantum mechanics, but finding such consistent sets of histories requires a computational overhead which is exponential in the problem’s size. Here, the authors report a variational hybrid algorithm solving this problem using polynomial resources.