The No Low-Energy Trivial States (NLTS) conjecture of Freedman and Hastings (Quantum Information and Computation 2014), which asserts the existence of local Hamiltonians whose low energy states cannot be generated by constant depth quantum circuits, identifies a fundamental obstacle to resolving the quantum PCP conjecture. Progress towards the NLTS conjecture was made by Eldar and Harrow (Foundations of Computer Science 2017), who proved a closely related theorem called No Low-Error Trivial States (NLETS). In this paper, we give a much simpler proof of the NLETS theorem, and use the same technique to establish superpolynomial circuit size lower bounds for noisy ground states of local Hamiltonians (assuming QCMA not equal to QMA), resolving an open question of Eldar and Harrow. We discuss the new light our results cast on the relationship between NLTS and NLETS.
Finally, our techniques imply the existence of approximate quantum low-weight check (qLWC) codes with linear rate, linear distance, and constant weight checks. These codes are similar to quantum LDPC codes except (1) each particle may participate in a large number of checks, and (2) errors only need to be corrected up to fidelity 1 - 1/poly(n). This stands in contrast to the best-known stabilizer LDPC codes due to Freedman, Meyer, and Luo which achieve a distance of O(sqrt{n log n}).
The principal technique used in our results is to leverage the Feynman-Kitaev clock construction to approximately embed a subspace of states defined by a circuit as the ground space of a local Hamiltonian.