The performance of quantum error correction can be significantly improved if detailed information about the noise is available, allowing to optimize both codes and decoders. It has been proposed to estimate error rates from the syndrome measurements done anyway during quantum error correction. While these measurements preserve the encoded quantum state, it is currently not clear how much information about the noise can be extracted in this way. So far, apart from the limit of vanishing error rates, rigorous results have only been established for some specific codes.
In this work, we rigorously resolve the question for arbitrary stabilizer codes. The main result is that a stabilizer code can be used to estimate Pauli channels with correlations across a number of qubits given by the pure distance. This result does not rely on the limit of vanishing error rates, and applies even if high weight errors occur frequently. Moreover, it also allows for measurement errors within the framework of quantum data-syndrome codes. Our proof combines Boolean Fourier analysis, combinatorics and elementary algebraic geometry. It is our hope that this work opens up interesting applications, such as the online adaptation of a decoder to time-varying noise.
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