This year I told people about quantum things, whether they liked it or not
All the quantumness, but with only a fraction of the maths
I’m a physicist working on quantum computation. This year I also had a mandate to do some outreach. I had to reign in the maths, and stop talking in Greek letters, but I think I managed to tell the public things they didn’t already know. Sometimes, they may have even wanted to know them.
I was still supposed to do my normal research too, designing the best ways to keep quantum technology free of noise. So I began with telling everyone all about that. I started with familiar principles, like the how we repeat ourselves when it’s noisy to make sure our message gets through. Then slowly and surely I moved to the quantum error correcting devices currently being built by IBM and Google.
But these devices just tell you when you have quantum mess and where it is. They give you a puzzle, and you need to solve it to clean things up. To explain how this is done, I moved to YouTube. I gathered a bunch of my colleagues and got them to help me make videos. Some of these colleagues were proper clever ones too.
It was during this era that I did an experiment. A real experiment, with the IBM quantum experience. Anyone can use it to play with an actual quantum processor. Even you! And even a theorist like me! So I did a video about that too.
Then finally we have the modern era. The Medium era. My recent articles are more general in scope. They are about quantum computers. But also about the anyons and quasiparticles that won this year’s Nobel prize. And Mariokart. And goombas.
Other things happened too, along the way. There were three AMAs on Reddit, answering questions from the public. Not just me, but with more colleagues that I managed to rope in. I still owe some of them a pint.
So there you go. I did a lot of keyboard bashing this year. I learnt a lot. I hope you do to.
Now, after a brief picture, the list begins…
The Medium Era
- Santa Claus: The Christmas Quasiparticle: A seasonal guide to quasiparticles.
- Making quantum computers out of anyons: An article on why quantum computers might be made from impossible particles, and how you can help.
- Quantum cheese gremlins, and why Einstein didn’t like them: Quantum non-locality, presented at a level that my parents could almost understand.
- How an obscure 80s video game won the Nobel Prize: A parable to explain something about anyons, and this year’s Nobel prize winning physics.
- Goombas as the antiparticles of mushrooms: New games for new physics: A continuation of the parable, as well as an attempt to get game designers to use this new physics for game mechanics.
- What is a quantum computer and can they run Mario Kart? A guide to what quantum computers are, and how they differ from normal ones.
- Hard drives for quantum computers: As complicated as they sound: An introduction to the possibility of self-correcting quantum memories. Basically a popular summary of our recent Rev. Mod. Phys. paper.
- Poking holes and cutting corners in a quantum computer: A summary of one of our recent papers.
- Building new universes from a bunch of magnets: A guide to the honeycomb lattice model, and how to coax it into giving us some anyons. Also the basis behind the experiment done one of our videos (see the YouTube section).
The Blogger Era
Relatively maths free articles
- Introduction to quantum error correction: A series of articles that start with how you should repeat yourself when talking on a noisy phone line, all the way up to the quantum error correcting codes currently being built by Google and IBM.
- What shape is the Earth? Find out and let me know The Earth’s shape was a controversial issue in early 2016. Neil deGrasse Tyson even rapped about it! Here’s my contribution, with no rapping.
- Introduction to anyons: Anyons are fun. They are part of the field that won this year’s Nobel prize. This article tells you a bit about them.
- Doing an experiment with the IBM quantum experience: A short intro to a video (see YouTube section) in which I do an experiment.
A bit of maths
- Qubits with the simplest maths possible: A guide to the qubit, the simplest quantum system, using maths. But don’t worry: only high school maths is used, and only when absolutely necessary.
- Entanglement with the simplest maths possible: Following on from the above, a second qubit joins the party. And then a third. And then teleportation happens.
- Two qubit measurements with the simplest maths possible: The article above got a bit long, so some of it fell out and made a new article.
- Quantum Computation with the simplest maths possible: I show how quantum computers are different to normal ones using some maths. But only a bit.
The YouTube Era
- Methods for quantum error correction Here’s a selection of videos some of the ways in which quantum errors can be corrected. Some where done by me alone. Some by other scientists. Some by me in collaboration with others.
- Doing an experiment with the IBM quantum experience: A video in which I tell you about an experiment to demonstrate the existence and power of anyons. And I do it live! And you can do it too!
- Some games based on quantum mechanics: As played by some idiot.
AMAs on Reddit
- /r/science AMA on quantum technology: Done with Profs and postdocs from the University of Basel, ETH and the University of Geneva.
- AMA on quantum computers: Done by participants to a conference on fault-tolerant quantum technologies.
- AMA on quantum computers: Just me this time.
Quantum Computing Lectures
I posted the slides for a course I teach on quantum computing.
- Lecture 1: Introduction to computation — Classical and Quantum
- Lecture 2: Quantum Bits
- Lecture 3: Quantum Gates
- Lecture 4: More Quantum Gates
- Lecture 5: Circuit Model
- Lecture 6: More Quantum Algorithms
That’s all for this year. I don’t get paid to do this kinda stuff next year, but I’m sure I’ll do it anyway. If you have ideas for what I should write about, or if you just want me to shut up, let me know.