Usually this blog is about research topics. When I was asked to write an item on the political aspects of quantum, I was excited but also a bit hesitant: would this parallel universe, in which politicians, executives and government officials rule the world, be interesting to the research community? What could I share without breaking rules of confidentiality while keeping some of the juicy details that make life interesting? How could I bridge the gap between these two worlds that are so completely different in their values, methods and people?
I decided to take up the challenge. After all, these dilemmas are the very same ones people with two legs in two different communities have to deal with every day. It is about making an effort to understand and find your way in different cultures and trying to get across some glimpse of these worlds to the people you work with on both ends. The last part almost feels like a mission impossible to me – the more reason to give it a shot in this blog! Continue reading Once upon a time in the Netherlands …
It is a cold Monday afternoon when we have our appointment with Wolfgang Tittel, professor in physics and specialized in photon entanglement, quantum teleportation, and quantum memory. As we expect from a busy professor, he is still in another meeting when we arrive, so we decide to wait two meters outside his door. When we go and check if he’s almost done with this other meeting, his office suddenly appears deserted. In a vivid demonstration of his expertise, he seems to have teleported away from his office…
Luckily, he reappears quickly and lets us into his spacious office. One wall is completely covered by a large whiteboard, covered in scribbled equations and diagrams. Clear signs of occupation by a physics professor. Professor Tittel himself welcomes us with a smile, clearly relishing the opportunity to talk about his work. What follows is an interview with professor Tittel, shortened and lightly edited for clarity.
What type of research do you do?
My research lies in the framework of the quantum internet. More precisely, it is about quantum key distribution (QKD) and the creation of quantum key distribution systems over very long links. This requires quantum repeaters. To create the quantum internet, we send photons down an optical fiber, but, just as in standard telecommunication, these photons get lost at some point. In standard telecommunication, you can use amplifiers to boost the signal level, but for quantum internet this doesn’t work because of the no-cloning theorem. Instead, we can use a so-called quantum repeater.
How cool is that? A Quantum Internet. Made of Diamonds.
by Matteo Pompili
We are constantly connected to Internet. With our computers, our smartphones, our cars, our fridges (mine is not, yet, but you get the idea). In its very first days, the Internet was a very rudimentary, yet revolutionary, connection between computers . It enabled one computer on the network to send messages to any other computer on the network, whether it was directly connected to it (that is, with a cable) or not. Some of the computers on the network acted as routing nodes for the information, so that it could get directed toward the destination. In 1969 there were four nodes on the then-called ARPANET. By 1973 there were ten times as many. In 1981 the number of connected computers was more than 200. Last year the number of devices capable of connecting to Internet was 8.4 billion (with a b!) .
Computers on their own are already great, but there is a whole range of applications that, without a network infrastructure, would be inaccessible. Do you see where I am going? Continue reading A Quantum Internet made of Diamonds
Quantum computing and nuclear fusion are potential 21st century technologies based on 20th century physics and neither of them is currently market ready. But while they are sometimes bunched together as fascinating concepts that will at any time be twenty years away from being realized, some estimate the timescale for the commercialization of the quantum computer to be much shorter now. Quantum computing is currently in a hype phase: The company D-wave has already sold a few quantum annealers based on flux qubits for millions of euros. They can solve certain optimization problems, but their computational advantages are a topic of debate. Google, IBM, Intel, and Microsoft are major commercial companies investing in quantum technologies right now. Several startups such as Rigetti Computing and IonQ have been founded recently with the goal of commercializing quantum computing. A list of such companies can be found here. Continue reading A Cloud Quantum Computer Business Plan
A few weeks ago I found myself boarding a series of planes that would take me from the Netherlands to pretty much the furthest point reachable from this starting point that still includes dry land: Sydney, Australia. I wasn’t going there entirely of my own accord. Rather I had been invited to speak at a quantum information theory workshop called Coogee. For those knowledgeable of the Sydney region, it is indeed named after a beach and yes the conference takes place less than a stone’s throw away from said beach.
Even if you’re in a niche research field, it seems almost impossible to keep up with all the scientific literature that has been coming out in the past couple of years. There are estimations that the global scientific output doubles every 9 years, so it’s not going to get any easier. If you want people to read about your results, you’ll have to stand out. An important part of standing out is having a good abstract.
In the fall of 2015 QuTech and Intel Corporation joined forces in an active collaboration working on the realisation of a quantum computer. The collaboration comprises comprises Edoardo Charbon’s control electronics, Koen Bertels’ architecture work, Leo DiCarlo’s superconducting qubits and Lieven Vandersypen’s silicon spin qubits. After having worked on the Delft side of the spin qubit part of that collaboration for almost two years, I spent three months this summer in Hillsboro, Oregon to be on the other side of the phone in our weekly Skype meetings. In this blogpost, I will share some of my experiences with you.
Research in academic is a tough, gruelling but ultimately rewarding job (otherwise we wouldn’t work so hard at it!). Usually if you ask a scientist about what it is like to work in research, you will be subjected to a coffee fuelled rant about tiresome data analysis, demanding students and endless paper preparation. Unless you catch us in an unusually good mood we won’t take the time to talk about the many things about our job that we genuinely enjoy.
Last Thursday was the yearly Applied Physics sports day. As is tradition, QuTech participated in big numbers. We competed with three teams, and it was clear already from the start that the goal of the day was not just to participate, it was also to win!
The winners mentality of the QuTech teams made me wonder: why were we more competitive than the average student team? Is there an analogy between sports and research that underpins this?
So this post will be a bit more, let’s say, philosophical. I’d like to share some of my thoughts on a particular subject which has always struck me when I was studying physics and also now while I’m doing it in what might be called a professional fashion. That subject is mathematics. More precisely it is mathematics as applied to physics. Now I won’t pretend to be anything close to a real mathematician, but when you need a math-person and there are no mathematicians around you can probably do worse than a theoretical physicist. In physics, and also in computer science, we use math; a lot of it. In fact I would say that, and I think most physicists would agree with me, that mathematics is the language the universe is written in. Or at least the only language capable of describing it in an efficient manner. People often marvel at the ability of mathematics to capture physical phenomena in an extremely accurate and efficient manner, often waxing philosophically about the inherent simplicity of the universe. Here I’d like to give some of my, fragmented and incomplete, thoughts on the matter. While I certainly think that the fact that nature is describable at all is a fact worth pondering over long and hard I think the prevalence of math in physics and its remarkable effectiveness is at least partly due to decidedly more down to earth cultural forces present throughout the history of mathematics.