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Tag archives: quantum theory

Fine-tuning quantum features to develop future technologies

Two superconducting qubits (left) and an artificial diamond with an NV centre

Quantum kit: two superconducting qubits (left) and an artificial diamond with an NV centre (right). (Courtesy: Tushna Commissariat)

By Tushna Commissariat

I’ve left sunny Stockholm and I’m back at the office in blustery Bristol, but I still have a few good quantum tales to tell from the science-writers’ workshop at NORDITA last week. On Thursday, the main speaker of the day was Raymond Laflamme, who is the current director of the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo in Canada. Laflamme – who kick-started his career working on cosmology at the University of Cambridge in the UK as a student of Stephen Hawking – studies quantum decoherence and how to protect quantum systems from it by applying quantum error-correction codes, as well as using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to develop a scalable method of controlling quantum systems.

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What can you learn at a quantum ‘boot camp’?

By Tushna Commissariat in Stockholm, Sweden

Google the word “quantum” and take a look at what comes up.
NORDITA logo

In addition to the obvious news articles about the latest developments in the field and the Wikipedia entries on quantum mechanics, you’ll undoubtedly come across a heap of other, seemingly random, stories.

I found, for example, a David Bowie song being compared to a quantum wavefunction (by none other than British science popularizer Brian Cox), as well as a new cruise ship being named Quantum of the Seas. Then there’s the usual jumble of pseudo-scientific “wellness” therapies that misguidedly adopt the word in a strange attempt to give their treatments some sort of credibility.

So while it seems that everyone is talking about quantum something or other, how much do we really understand this notoriously difficult subject? More to the point, how much do science journalists, like me, really know about the subject? I write stories about quantum mechanics from time to time for Physics World and the subject can, I assure you, be fiendish and quite mind-bending.

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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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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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What are quantum wavefunctions?

By James Dacey

Graphic of Greek letter psi

Seeking the meaning of psi. (Courtesy: Pasieka/Science Photo Library; Mat Ward)

In the May issue of Physics World, science writer Jon Cartwright explores some of the most profound questions about the nature of reality. His feature, “The life of psi”, engages with an apparently simple question: what are quantum wavefunctions? Of course, like many of the most interesting questions in physics, the answer to the question is far from elementary. In fact, it is a question that goes right to the heart of quantum mechanics and philosophy, and one that has puzzled some of the greatest minds for the best part of a century.

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String theorist bags $3m Fundamental Physics Prize

By Hamish Johnston

Alexander Polyakov

Alexander Polyakov has something to smile about. (Courtesy: Technion University)

The string theorist Alexander Polyakov has won the 2013 Fundamental Physics Prize. The $3m prize is awarded by Milner Foundation, which is funded by the Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner and was inaugurated last year.

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Quantum landscaping

USPS.jpg
Artist’s impression of a map of the Quantum Universe (Graphic courtesy of “ILC — form one visual communication”)

By Tushna Commissariat

Here’s a bit of Friday physics fun… I came across this rather interesting image that shows an artist’s impression of a map entitled “The Quantum Universe”. It includes six landmasses all floating in the Big Bang Ocean; including Dark Matter Landmass, Sypersymmetry Reef, Higgs Island and the Land of Ultimate Unification as well as others.

So go ahead and tell us which island you would like to settle down on. Be sure to look carefully at gems like Newton’s Lawn and Mount Einstein before you make your mind up!

To see a larger hi-res image follow this link.

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