Causal orders, quantum circuits and spacetime: distinguishing between definite and superposed causal orders

Nikola Paunković1 and Marko Vojinović2

1Instituto de Telecomunicações and Departamento de Matemática, Instituto Superior Técnico, Universidade de Lisboa, Avenida Rovisco Pais 1049-001, Lisboa, Portugal
2Institute of Physics, University of Belgrade, Pregrevica 118, 11080 Belgrade, Serbia

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We study the notion of causal orders for the cases of (classical and quantum) circuits and spacetime events. We show that every circuit can be immersed into a classical spacetime, preserving the compatibility between the two causal structures. Using the process matrix formalism, we analyse the realisations of the quantum switch using 4 and 3 spacetime events in classical spacetimes with fixed causal orders, and the realisation of a gravitational switch with only 2 spacetime events that features superpositions of different gravitational field configurations and their respective causal orders. We show that the current quantum switch experimental implementations do not feature superpositions of causal orders between spacetime events, and that these superpositions can only occur in the context of superposed gravitational fields. We also discuss a recently introduced operational notion of an event, which does allow for superpositions of respective causal orders in flat spacetime quantum switch implementations. We construct two observables that can distinguish between the quantum switch realisations in classical spacetimes, and gravitational switch implementations in superposed spacetimes. Finally, we discuss our results in the light of the modern relational approach to physics.

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