This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site you agree to our use of cookies. To find out more, see our Privacy and Cookies policy.
Skip to the content

Share this

Free weekly newswire

Sign up to receive all our latest news direct to your inbox.

Physics on film

100 Second Science Your scientific questions answered simply by specialists in less than 100 seconds.

Watch now

Bright Recruits

At all stages of your career – whether you're an undergraduate, graduate, researcher or industry professional – can help find the job for you.

Find your perfect job

Physics connect

Are you looking for a supplier? Physics Connect lists thousands of scientific companies, businesses, non-profit organizations, institutions and experts worldwide.

Start your search today


Torino peers into the quantum world

By James Dacey in Torino, Italy

It’s home to the Italian football giants Juventus and of course the famous shroud with the stain that looks like Jesus, but apart from that I must confess to knowing very little about Torino before I arrived here late last night.

I’m in town for the Euroscience Open Forum – a biannual international meeting celebrating science, technology and culture, with an obvious leaning towards all things European.

With such a broad scope, I was a bit concerned that the events might be a bit lightweight and sanitized. But fortunately my fears were allayed by the first session this morning, which dived in by looking at some of the fundamental concepts of quantum mechanics and their philosophical implications. Okay, so there was a little bit of naval-gazing, but there were also some really fascinating discussions.

One of the speakers was physics Nobel laureate, Gerard ‘t Hooft, who was looking at local determinism. He was comparing the theory of quantum mechanics with the manner in which Maxwell formulated his celebrated equations of electromagnetism. His conclusion being (as far as I understood!) that critics of quantum mechanics cannot make such a clear distinction between the accuracy of ‘deterministic’ approaches like electromagnetism and the “non-deterministic” theory of quantum mechanics.

‘t Hooft described how Maxwell had visualized space as being filled at all points with gears and switches, which all had an effect on each other. The laureate’s argument was that, while this approach worked for electromagnetism, quantum mechanics is a far more encompassing theory. He believes this approach is simply not feasible in the search for equations of the entire physical universe – there is too much going on that we will always have to break things down into estimates and probabilities.

In a (slightly) lighter talk, logician Marisa Dalla Chiara of Italy’s University of Firenze made the argument that quantum computing is much closer to human reasoning than classical computing is. She compared the supposition of quantum states with personality traits, declaring that people are neither “fully generous” nor fully “not generous”. We are always a supposition of the two.

Chiara believes that if we can develop practical quantum computers we could start to address some of the areas beyond the capability of classical computers. This might include the formal analysis of music to work out how it can create different moods within different contexts.

To bring her argument to life, Chiara even treated us to a quick rendition of Monteverdi’s Lamento di Arianna. Very eccentric but a nice touch.

Quantum mechanics and its applications is one of the 10 main themes of the conference and it will also include a keynote speech from Anton Zeilinger, the Austrian physicist famous for teleporting information over increasingly large distances. I’m hoping to catch up Zeilinger for a chat on Monday so I’ll let you know how that goes.

Right, I’m off to grab a slice from one of the city’s many takeaway pizza outlets before rushing back for the afternoon’s sessions.

This entry was posted in General. Bookmark the permalink.
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

Comments are closed.


  • Comments should be relevant to the article and not be used to promote your own work, products or services.
  • Please keep your comments brief (we recommend a maximum of 250 words).
  • We reserve the right to remove excessively long, inappropriate or offensive entries.

Show/hide formatting guidelines

Tag Description Example Output
<a> Hyperlink <a href="">google</a> google
<abbr> Abbreviation <abbr title="World Health Organisation" >WHO</abbr> WHO
<acronym> Acronym <acronym title="as soon as possible">ASAP</acronym> ASAP
<b> Bold <b>Some text</b> Some text
<blockquote> Quoted from another source <blockquote cite="">IOP</blockquote>
<cite> Cite <cite>Diagram 1</cite> Diagram 1
<del> Deleted text From this line<del datetime="2012-12-17"> this text was deleted</del> From this line this text was deleted
<em> Emphasized text In this line<em> this text was emphasised</em> In this line this text was emphasised
<i> Italic <i>Some text</i> Some text
<q> Quotation WWF goal is to build a future <q cite="">
where people live in harmony with nature and animals</q>
WWF goal is to build a future
where people live in harmony with nature and animals
<strike> Strike text <strike>Some text</strike> Some text
<strong> Stronger emphasis of text <strong>Some text</strong> Some text