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Quantum information is a breath of fresh air

By Hamish Johnston

Modern quantum mechanics has been around for a century or so and has proven to be an incredibly useful tool for both understanding nature and creating practical technologies. Therefore, it might come as a surprise that different “attitudes” to quantum mechanics still exist among experts in the field.

These are highlighted in a paper recently uploaded to the arXiv preprint server. It describes a poll of 33 leading physicists, philosophers and mathematicians that asks their opinions on quantum theory. The survey was done at a conference in 2011 in Austria that was called “Quantum Physics and the Nature of Reality”.

Delegates were asked which is their preferred interpretation of quantum mechanics. Not surprisingly, “Copenhagen” was the winner with 42% of the vote, followed by an “information-based” approach” with 24%.

On the subject of quantum information – that is, the ongoing development of quantum computing, cryptography etc. – 76% of the respondents agreed that “it’s a breath of fresh air for quantum foundations”, whereas only 12% thought it was not relevant to the study of the foundations of quantum mechanics.

And what about that question that physicists are hearing a lot of these days: “When will we have a working and useful quantum computer?” While only 9% said within 10 years, 42% chose within 10–25 years.

The paper is by Maximilian Schlosshauer of the University of Portland, Johannes Kofler of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and Anton Zeilinger of the University of Vienna. As well as presenting the results, the trio look at correlations between different responses to try to build a picture of participant’s overall view of quantum theory. They also compare the responses to a similar poll done in 1997. You can read the paper here .

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