The detectability lemma and its applications to Quantum Hamiltonian complexity

Dorit Aharonov*, Itai Arad, Umesh Vazirani, Zeph Landau

*Corresponding author for this work

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22 Scopus citations


Quantum Hamiltonian complexity, an emerging area at the intersection of condensed matter physics and quantum complexity theory, studies the properties of local Hamiltonians and their ground states. In this paper we focus on a seemingly specialized technical tool, the detectability lemma (DL), introduced in the context of the quantum PCP challenge (Aharonov et al 2009 arXiv:0811.3412), which is a major open question in quantum Hamiltonian complexity. We show that a reformulated version of the lemma is a versatile tool that can be used in place of the celebrated Lieb-Robinson (LR) bound to prove several important results in quantum Hamiltonian complexity. The resulting proofs are much simpler, more combinatorial and provide a plausible path toward tackling some fundamental open questions in Hamiltonian complexity. We provide an alternative simpler proof of the DL that removes a key restriction in the original statement (Aharonov et al 2009 arXiv:0811.3412), making it more suitable for the broader context of quantum Hamiltonian complexity. Specifically, we first use the DL to provide a one-page proof of Hastings' result that the correlations in the ground states of gapped Hamiltonians decay exponentially with distance (Hastings 2004 Phys. Rev. B 69 104431). We then apply the DL to derive a simpler and more intuitive proof of Hastings' seminal one-dimensional (1D) area law (Hastings 2007 J. Stat. Mech. (2007) P8024) (both these proofs are restricted to frustration-free systems). Proving the area law for two and higher dimensions is one of the most important open questions in the field of Hamiltonian complexity, and the combinatorial nature of the DL-based proof holds out hope for a possible generalization. Indeed, soon after the first publication of the methods presented here, they were applied to derive exponential improvements to Hastings' result (Arad et al 2011, Aharonov et al 2011) in the case of frustration-free 1D systems. Finally, we also provide a more general explanation of how the DL can be used to replace the LR bound.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number113043
JournalNew Journal of Physics
StatePublished - Nov 2011


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