The Quantum Pontiff

War I Tell You

Self promotion for those around the University of Washington campus: I’m giving a talk in the physics department at UW. Mondays, October 20 at 4:00 P.M. Ronald Geballe Auditorium, Rm. A102 (cookies at 3:45):

Title: “Who Will Build a Quantum Computer: the Physicists or the Computer

Abstract: Building a quantum computer large enough to perform a task beyond the capability of today’s classical computers (breaking a cryptographic code or simulating a complex quantum system) is a daunting task. On the fundamental side, this difficulty arises from the fact that quantum systems like to decohere, and that we cannot control a quantum system with perfect accuracy. On the technical side, the obstacles toward build a quantum computer arise from the severe engineering constraints imposed by manipulating individual quantum systems. The theoretical solution to the problems of decoherence and lack of control was worked out in the nineties and is known as the threshold theorem for fault-tolerant quantum computing. The great debate in quantum computing today is how the technical difficulties of building a quantum computer will be overcome. In this talk I will outline two very distinct camps on how this will be achieved: one centered very squarely on engineering and the other with roots in condensed matter physics. This is a battle for the soul of future quantum computers and will determine whether quantum computers are years, decades, or centuries away from being built.


  1. #1 JohnQPublic
    October 14, 2008

    As long as I can code in Python on them…

  2. #2 Darek
    October 14, 2008

    Oh joy, I got to hear Sean Carroll’s talk last Spring at the UW physics colloquium, and now another physics blogger will be stopping by.

    Be warned, the auditorium was pretty much filled to capacity for Sean’s presentation, so if your talk isn’t as well attended I think he gets some sort of bragging rights.

  3. #3 Dave Bacon
    October 14, 2008

    Sean is a famous guy. I’m a hack who works in computer science. So I’m expecting a crowd of….

  4. #4 Geordie
    October 14, 2008

    Dave: Good topic. Wish I could be there. Will you be distributing slides?

  5. #6 Darek
    October 14, 2008

    I took a quantum computing class over the summer with Boris Blinov, who’s hosting the colloquia this quarter, so even if your performance is not sold out I’m looking forward to maybe-kinda-sorta understanding some of it.

  6. #7 David McMahon
    October 14, 2008

    I predict nobody will build a quantum computer. Its a fantasy bigger than string theory 😉

  7. #8 milkshake
    October 15, 2008

    Building quantum computer is beyond the point. As Scott Aaronson explains, it is important to first understand the physical limits of calculation and answer what kind of calculations we can’t do with these computers that we don’t have

  8. #9 Dave Bacon
    October 15, 2008

    Thanks for the vote of confidence David. I’ll add that with the appropriate weight into my probability estimate for building a quantum computer.

  9. #10 Jonathan Vos Post
    October 15, 2008

    I predict that we will be prepared into a mixed state where we both do and do not have quantum computers.

    I’m saying that here, because Scott Aaronson (whom I got to meet when Kip Thorne introduced us at Caltech) never lets me post weird or poetic stuff on his otherwise superb blog.

  10. #11 John A. Sidles
    October 17, 2008

    Dave, I’ll definitely be there … your first slide (as you leaked it to me) is itself enough to make the talk worth attending! :)

    Seriously, this looks like an outstanding talk on a wonderful subject. I’ll see you there!

  11. #12 Brian Wang
    October 22, 2008

    Any comments on Dwave System’s new 128 qubit work ?

  12. #13 Geordie
    October 22, 2008

    Brian: Yes, it’s AWESOME… I give it 5 roast beef sandwiches.

    Seriously though Dave how did your talk go? I think we’re speaking at the same event in a few weeks.

  13. #14 Dave Bacon
    October 23, 2008

    The talk went okay I guess. I wish I had more time, as always.

    Yeah it looks like I’m speaking write after you! Must…prepare…good…jokes.

New comments have been temporarily disabled. Please check back soon.