I woke up this morning with the perception that I had been dreaming about designing trinary computers and topics related to quantum spin for a large chunk of the night. Why I would have been dreaming about this is not at all obvious. I didn’t go to bed thinking about any scientific or computer engineering topics.
In my dream it seemed natural to use spin-1 quantum states to build a trinary clock signal for the microprocessor. That basically means that the clock signal would be optical, since photons can have spin 1, 0 or -1. However, what would it even mean to have a spin synchronized clock signal. This would be a state that could be measured at any point on the microprocessor that has a time varying spin, but measurement of that spin would not alter the spin states of all the other photons in the clock signal? If measurement of the signal at one point on the chip cannot perturb the overall clock signal, then there must be a large number of particles involved. Also how could you prepare a stream of photons that you could measure the spin and know before hand what the observed spin state should be at any given point in time? Is the spin state of any given photon not random when measured?
So, perhaps the clock signal is a complex entangled many-photon state? Is there a mechanism to produce an entangled state for which the measured state at any point in time would be cyclic? I haven’t even studied any aspects of quantum information theory, other than knowing that entangled states exist. Perhaps questions like these are already well understood?
I also dreamed of a large clear glass-like window pane, in which all the spin-1 particles had their spins synchronized. I guess this is a similar, but simpler version of the microchip spin synchronized clock signal, just not varying with time. In my dream I wondered what the optical properties of “glass” would be if there was a large degree of spin synchronization. Now, does glass even have any spin-1 particles? Perhaps the window pane in my dream was built of some other material, like plastic or Star Trek like transparent aluminium. Even supposing that it was possible to synchronize the spins in a large number of particles, the optical effects of doing so are not clear to me. We do calculations of reflection and transparency in electromagnetism, but there the underlying nature of the transparency is treated as a black box, having to do with the electric and magnetic permittivity. I understand transparency to be a bulk solid state quantum statistical mechanics phenomena, but don’t really know enough to be able to, say, compute the optical properties of a given crystal lattice of some arbitrary material. Understanding that has been a goal since I was a kid (perhaps since I saw “The voyage home” with my grandparents as a kid), but I haven’t gotten that far in my studies yet, or if I have, I haven’t put all the pieces together mentally.
In a metal, like aluminum, there would be many free electrons. Perhaps the spin of those half-integer spin particles could be synchronized. What would be the optical properties if that was done in a large sheet of material? In stat-mech we did the calculations that related spin to magnetic moment, so there would surely be magnetic properties to such a spin synchronized surface. It is kind of interesting that we have two so very different mechanisms for magnetism, one due to quantum half integer spin, and the other due to relativistic effects of observing electrons in motion. There are surely some subtle ways these are related in quantum field theory, but I don’t know much of that topic either.
This purpose of this dream sequence really seems to be pointing out to me how little I know, in the big picture sense, about how electrodynamics and quantum mechanics fit together.