guest post by Tomi Johnson
If you were to randomly click a hyperlink on this web page and keep doing so on each page that followed, where would you end up?
As an esteemed user of Azimuth, I’d like to think you browse more intelligently, but the above is the question Google asks when deciding how to rank the world’s web pages.
Recently, together with the team (Mauro Faccin, Jacob Biamonte and Piotr Migdał) at the ISI Foundation in Turin, we attended a workshop in which several of the attendees were asking a similar question with a twist. “What if you, the web surfer, behaved quantum mechanically?”
Now don’t panic! I have no reason to think you might enter a superposition of locations or tunnel through a wall. This merely forms part of a recent drive towards understanding the role that network science can play in quantum physics.
As we’ll find, playing with quantum networks is fun. It could also become a necessity. The size of natural systems in which quantum effects have been identified has grown steadily over the past few years. For example, attention has recently turned to explaining the remarkable efficiency of light-harvesting complexes, comprising tens of molecules and thousands of atoms, using quantum mechanics. If this expansion continues, perhaps quantum physicists will have to embrace the concepts of complex networks.
To begin studying quantum complex networks, we found a revealing toy model. Let me tell you about it. Like all good stories, it has a beginning, a middle and an end. In this part, I’ll tell you the beginning and the middle. I’ll introduce the stochastic walk describing the randomly clicking web surfer mentioned above and a corresponding quantum walk. In part 2 the story ends with the bounding of the difference between the two walks in terms of the energy of the walker.
But for now I’ll start by introducing you to a graph, this time representing the internet!
If this taster gets you interested, there are more details available here:
• Mauro Faccin, Tomi Johnson, Jacob Biamonte, Sabre Kais and Piotr Migdał, Degree distribution in quantum walks on complex networks, arXiv:1305.6078 (2013).
What does the internet look like from above?
As we all know, the idea of the internet is to connect computers to each other. What do these connections look like when abstracted as a network, with each computer a node and each connection an edge?
The internet on a local scale, such as in your house or office, might look something like this:
with several devices connected to a central hub. Each hub connects to other hubs, and so the internet on a slightly larger scale might look something like this:
What about the full global, not local, structure of the internet? To answer this question, researchers have developed representations of the whole internet, such as this one:
While such representations might be awe inspiring, how can we make any sense of them? Or are they merely excellent desktop wallpapers and new-age artworks?
In terms of complex network theory, there’s actually a lot that can be said that is not immediately obvious from the above representation.
For example, we find something very interesting if we plot the number of web pages with different incoming links (called degree) on a log-log axis. What is found for the African web is the following:
This shows that very few pages are linked to by a very large number others, while a very large number of pages receive very few links. More precisely, what this shows is a power law distribution, the signature of which is a straight line on a log-log axis.
In fact, power law distributions arise in a diverse number of real world networks, human-built networks such as the internet and naturally occurring networks. It is often discussed alongside the concept of the preferential attachment; highly connected nodes seem to accumulate connections more quickly. We all know of a successful blog whose success had led to an increased presence and more success. That’s an example of preferential attachment.
It’s clear then that degree is an important concept in network theory, and its distribution across the nodes a useful characteristic of a network. Degree gives one indication of how important a node is in a network.
And this is where stochastic walks come in. Google, who are in the business of ranking the importance of nodes (web pages) in a network (the web), use (up to a small modification) the idealized model of a stochastic walker (web surfer) who randomly hops to connected nodes (follows one of the links on a page). This is called the uniform escape model, since the total rate of leaving any node is set to be the same for all nodes. Leaving the walker to wander for a long while, Google then takes the probability of the walker being on a node to rank the importance of that node. In the case that the network is undirected (all links are reciprocated) this long-time probability, and therefore the rank of the node, is proportional to the degree of the node.
So node degrees and the uniform escape model play an important role in the fields of complex networks and stochastic walks. But can they tell us anything about the much more poorly understood topics of quantum networks and quantum walks? In fact, yes, and demonstrating that to you is the purpose of this pair of articles.
Before we move on to the interesting bit, the math, it’s worth just listing a few properties of quantum walks that make them hard to analyze, and explaining why they are poorly understood. These are the difficulties we will show how to overcome below.
• No convergence. In a stochastic walk, if you leave the walker to wander for a long time, eventually the probability of finding a walker at a node converges to a constant value. In a quantum walk, this doesn’t happen, so the walk can’t be characterized so easily by its long-time properties.
• Dependence on initial states. In some stochastic walks the long-time properties of the walk are independent of the initial state. It is possible to characterize the stochastic walk without referring to the initialization of the walker. Such a characterization is not so easy in quantum walks, since their evolution always depends on the initialization of the walker. Is it even possible then to say something useful that applies to all initializations?
• Stochastic and quantum generators differ. Those of you familiar with the network theory series know that some generators produce both stochastic and quantum walks (see part 16 for more details). However, most stochastic walk generators, including that for the uniform escape model, do not generate quantum walks and vice versa. How do we then compare stochastic and quantum walks when their generators differ?
With the task outlined, let’s get started!
Graphs and walks
In the next couple of sections I’m going to explain the diagram below to you. If you’ve been following the network theory series, in particular part 20, you’ll find parts of it familiar. But as it’s been a while since the last post covering this topic, let’s start with the basics.
A simple graph can be used to define both stochastic and quantum walks. A simple graph is something like this:
where there is at most one edge between any two nodes, there are no edges from a node to itself and all edges are undirected. To avoid complications, let’s stick to simple graphs with a finite number of nodes. Let’s also assume you can get from every node to every other node via some combination of edges i.e. the graph is connected.
In the particular example above the graph represents a network of nodes, where nodes 3 and 4 have degree (number of edges) 3, and nodes 1, 2 and 5 have degree 2.
Every simple graph defines a matrix called the adjacency matrix. For a network with nodes, this matrix is of size and each element is unity if there is an edge between nodes and , and zero otherwise (let’s use this basis for the rest of this post). For the graph drawn above the adjacency matrix is
By construction, every adjacency matrix is symmetric:
(the means the transposition of the elements in the node basis) and further, because each is real, it is self-adjoint:
(the means conjugate transpose).
There are other matrices that are defined by the graph. Perhaps the most familiar is the Laplacian, which has recently been a topic on this blog (see parts 15, 16 and 20 of the series, and this recent post).
The Laplacian is the matrix
where the degree matrix is an diagonal matrix with elements given by the degrees
For the graph drawn above, the degree matrix and Laplacian are:
The Laplacian is self-adjoint and generates a quantum walk.
The Laplacian has another property; it is infinitesimal stochastic. This means that its off diagonal elements are non-positive and its columns sum to zero. This is interesting because an infinitesimal stochastic matrix generates a continuous-time stochastic walk.
So far, I have just presented what has been covered on Azimuth previously. However, to analyze the important uniform escape model we need to go beyond the class of (Dirichlet) generators that produce both quantum and stochastic walks. Further, we have to somehow find a related quantum walk. We’ll see below that both tasks are achieved by considering the normalized Laplacians: one generating the uniform escape stochastic walk and the other a related quantum walk.
The two normalized Laplacians are:
• the asymmetric normalized Laplacian (that generates the uniform escape Stochastic walk) and
• the symmetric normalized Laplacian (that generates a Quantum walk).
For the graph drawn above the asymmetric normalized Laplacian is
The identical diagonal elements indicates that the total rates of leaving each node are identical, and the equality within each column of the other non-zero elements indicates that the walker is equally likely to hop to any node connected to its current node. This is the uniform escape model!
For the same graph the symmetric normalized Laplacian is
That the diagonal elements are identical in the quantum case indicates that all nodes are of equal energy, this is type of quantum walk usually considered.
Puzzle 1. Show that in general is infinitesimal stochastic but not self-adjoint.
Puzzle 2. Show that in general is self-adjoint but not infinitesimal stochastic.
So a graph defines two matrices: one that generates a stochastic walk, and one that generates a quantum walk. The natural question to ask is whether these walks are related. The answer is that they are!
Underpinning this relationship is the mathematical property that and are similar. They are related by the following similarity transformation
which means that any eigenvector of associated to eigenvalue gives a vector
that is an eigenvector of with the same eigenvalue! To show this, insert the identity into
and multiply from the left with to obtain
The same works in the opposite direction. Any eigenvector of gives an eigenvector
of with the same eigenvalue
The mathematics is particularly nice because is self-adjoint. A self-adjoint matrix is diagonalizable, and has real eigenvalues and orthogonal eigenvectors.
As a result, the symmetric normalized Laplacian can be decomposed as
where is real and are orthogonal projectors. Each acts as the identity only on vectors in the space spanned by and as zero on all others, such that
Multiplying from the left by and the right by results in a similar decomposition for :
with orthogonal projectors
I promised above that I would explain the following diagram:
Let’s summarize what it represents now:
• is a simple graph that specifies
• the adjacency matrix (generator of a quantum walk), which subtracted from
• the diagonal matrix of the degrees gives
• the symmetric Laplacian (generator of stochastic and quantum walks), which when normalized by returns both
• the generator of the uniform escape stochastic walk and
• the quantum walk generator to which it is similar!
Sadly, this is where we’ll finish for now.
We have all the ingredients necessary to study the walks generated by the normalized Laplacians and exploit the relationship between them.
Next time, in part 2, I’ll talk you through the mathematics of the uniform escape stochastic walk and how it connects to the degrees of the nodes in the long-time limit. Then I’ll show you how this helps us solve aspects of the quantum walk generated by
In other news
Before I leave you, let me tell you about a workshop the ISI team recently attended (in fact helped organize) at the Institute of Quantum Computing, on the topic of quantum computation and complex networks. Needless to say, there were talks on papers related to quantum mechanics and networks!
Some researchers at the workshop gave exciting talks based on numerical examinations of what happens if a quantum walk is used instead of a stochastic walk to rank the nodes of a network:
• Eduardo Sánchez-Burillo, Jordi Duch, Jesús Gómez-Gardenes and David Zueco, Quantum navigation and ranking in complex networks, Sci. Rep. 2 (2012), 605.
Others attending the workshop have numerically examined what happens when using quantum computers to represent the stationary state of a stochastic process:
• Silvano Garnerone, Paolo Zanardi and Daniel A. Lidar, Adiabatic quantum algorithm for search engine ranking, Phys. Rev. Lett. 108 (2012), 230506.
It was a fun workshop and we plan to organize/attend more in the future!