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Tag archives: quantum physics

Lateral Thoughts: some things never change

By Margaret Harris

This is the second in a series of blog posts about “Lateral Thoughts”, Physics World’s long-running humour column. You can read the first one here.

The Lateral Thoughts column of humorous, off-beat or otherwise “lateral” essays has been part of Physics World ever since the magazine was launched in October 1988. In my previous post about the column’s history, I described some ways that Lateral Thoughts have changed since the early days (tl;dr version: loads of sexism, side order of class conflict).  But in my trawl through the archive, I’ve also discovered that some things haven’t changed very much at all over the past quarter-century.

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Colliding exhibits, influential researchers, edible particle-detectors and more

Collider exhibition at London's Science Museum (Courtesy: Nick Rochowski for the Science Museum)

The “Collider” exhibition at London’s Science Museum. (Courtesy: Jennie Hills / Science Museum)

 

By Matin Durrani and Tushna Commissariat

If you’re in the tiny minority of people whose job title says “particle physicist”, chances are you’ll have been to CERN at least once in your career to help build a detector, analyse some collision data or muse in the cafeteria over supersymmetry (or the apparent lack of it so far). But for the rest of the world, going to the Geneva lab is simply not on the agenda, which is one reason why the Science Museum in London has this week unveiled a big new exhibition devoted to CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. Entitled simply Collider, the exhibition “blends theatre, video and sound art with real artefacts from CERN” that will, say organizers, “recreate a visit to the famous particle-physics laboratory”.

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The November 2013 issue of Physics World is now out

By Matin Durrani

Physics World Nov13

Well, despite all the excitement of last month’s special 25th-anniversary issue of Physics World, there’s been no let-up for us – we’ve been busy beavering away on the next issue of your favourite physics magazine, which is now ready for you to read in print, via our apps or online.

If you’re a member of the Institute of Physics (IOP), you can  access the entire new issue free via the digital version of the magazine or by downloading the Physics World app onto your iPhone or iPad or Android device, available from the App Store and Google Play, respectively.

Our cover story this month is about a strange series of experiments, carried out by Yves Couder and Emmanuel Fort at Paris Diderot University, examining the behaviour of oil droplets vibrating on the surface of an oil bath. The droplets are classical in nature but also seem to show much of what would be expected of a quantum system, including interference patterns. So is this coincidence or not? Jon Cartwright investigates.

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Quantum hackers foiled – for now

By Hamish Johnston

QKD is a popular quantum-cryptography technique that is already being used commercially. It allows two parties, usually called Alice and Bob,  to exchange an encryption key, secure in the knowledge that the key will not have been read by an eavesdropper (Eve). This guarantee is possible because the key is transmitted in terms of quantum bits (qubits) of information, which if intercepted and read are changed irrevocably, thus revealing the actions of Eve.

QKD cannot be cracked if it is implemented using equipment that behaves exactly as expected. Qubits are normally transmitted as single photons, for example, and therefore Alice and Bob must be equipped with single-photon detectors. The problem is that these detectors are not perfect and by simply shining a bright laser at a detector, Eve can trick it into thinking that it has detected a single photon even though that photon has been read by her.

While physicists have come up with several ways of thwarting such attacks, these tend to complicate the QKD process so as to make it impractical. Now, two independent teams of physicists have demonstrated aspects of a new scheme called measurement device independent QKD (MDI-QKD) that seems to close the loophole.

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Lectures with Peter Higgs, award-winning photographs, multidimentional shapes and more

Guiding Light To The Stars

By Tushna Commissariat

Each week, all of us here at Physics World comb the Internet for all things physics – we look at national and local newspapers, university news outlets, a variety of magazines, science websites and blogs, and, of course, all the  latest scientific papers. We then pool our research and pick the cream of our crop to report on. But we can’t always cover all the interesting bits of physics news that we have chanced upon and a lot of good stuff is left behind in a red folder. So, starting from today, at the end of each week we’ve decided to point all of you, our eager readers, to the stories that have caught our fancy but not made it to the site yet and leave you with some extra weekend reading from The Red Folder.

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Life inside the Perimeter

Blackboards and equations galore at the PI

Blackboards and equations galore at the PI.

By Hamish Johnston in Canada’s Quantum Valley

Today I am living the dream, at least for many theoretical physicists. I have my very own office at the Perimeter Institute (PI) for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario. It comes complete with free coffee, a blackboard pre-loaded with equations and access to some of the world’s top physicists.

This morning I spoke to Daniel Gottesman, who if I am not mistaken was the first PI faculty member to work on quantum information after joining in 2002. His speciality is quantum error correction and we had a fantastic chat about the directions in which quantum computing could go in the future.

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Entering the quantum world

Not a black hole in sight: Raymond Laflamme in one of the IQC labs. The machine behind him makes diamonds for quantum computing experiments

Not a black hole in sight: Raymond Laflamme in one of the IQC labs. The machine behind him makes diamonds for quantum-computing experiments.

By Hamish Johnston in Canada’s Quantum Valley

“We have entered the quantum world and we can control it” is how Raymond Laflamme characterizes the current quantum renaissance that is sweeping across many fields of physics. Laflamme is director of the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at Canada’s University of Waterloo and he began his career at the University of Cambridge as a student of Stephen Hawking, working on cosmology.

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A ‘unique’ quantum research centre

Vadim Makarov with a few old friends

Vadim Makarov with a few old friends.

By Hamish Johnston in Canada’s Quantum Valley

“There’s no place like this in the world,” said Vadim Makarov (above) as we walked up to his lab at the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at Canada’s University of Waterloo. What’s unique about the place, according to Makarov and others I spoke to in Waterloo, is that it brings together a diverse group of researchers (physicists, computer scientists, mathematicians, engineers, etc) in one place to develop quantum-information technology.

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High-sticking in the Quantum Valley

Keep your stick on the ice! How to give a talk at PI

Keep your stick on the ice! How to give a talk at PI.

By Hamish Johnston in Canada’s Quantum Valley

I had a fantastic day today touring Canada’s “Quantum Valley”, which is what people are starting to call the region surrounding the University of Waterloo in Ontario. Waterloo is an hour’s drive west of Toronto and home to the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (PI) and the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC). There is also a small but growing cluster of quantum technology start-ups that have spun out of the university.

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An afternoon of quantum theory

By Louise Mayor

Yesterday I had an exciting trip out of the office.

This month's cover story

This month’s cover story.

Earlier this week, one of Physics World’s freelance writers, Jon Cartwright, told how me he’d been invited to the Bristol University theory department’s weekly seminar. Felix Flicker, a 2nd-year PhD student who organizes these events, had seen Jon’s article “The life of psi” in this month’s Physics World, which discusses a theorem published in Nature Physics. The theorem is interesting because if its assumptions hold, it rules out one of the four interpretations of quantum mechanics and leaves us with three.

I wanted in on the seminar action!

Last year when I was planning the Physics World special issue on quantum frontiers (which was out in March and is still available as a free PDF download), I had approached Jon to ask whether he’d like to tackle a quantum topic, and he let me know he was interested in covering the paper by Matthew Pusey, Jonathan Barrett and Terry Rudolph. Jon had seen the story reported elsewhere but had found these accounts were light on the details and didn’t get to the bottom of the science. I liked the idea and Jon went ahead. Once the story arrived in my inbox I was hooked! I found it to be one of those stories that covers some tricky concepts but if you let yourself become immersed in the story and think through what’s being explained, is very rewarding.

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