The Quantum Pontiff

Words That Make Me Cringe


  1. #1 Ian Durham
    March 31, 2009

    Hey, that’s neat. It let’s you see voting patterns by state. I’m not surprised I’m the only Maine resident who voted. I’m guessing New Hampshire voters were people at Dartmouth, maybe in Lorenza’s group. Vermont doesn’t surprise me either. But someone in Nebraska voted!

  2. #2 Matt Leifer
    March 31, 2009

    I think you should have included “entanglement” as an option. My argument for this is based on the large number of papers published with the following format (grad students who are stuck for a project can use the following as a template):

    1. Introduction

    Entanglement is one of the most puzzling aspects of quantum theory. According to Schroedinger, it is “the characteristic trait of quantum mechanics, the one that enforces its entire departure from classical lines of thought”. More recently it has been realized that entanglement can actually be used as a resource in protocols such as quantum teleportation (implied suggestion that the mere mention of the word “resource” actually solves the original problems with entanglement in any way (this bit doesn’t actually appear in the paper)).

    2. Main Results

    Insert one of the following:

    - Proof that some randomly defined quantity with no operational meaning is an entanglement monotone. Compute it for Werner states for no apparent reason. If it is a multiparty measure then compute it for GHZ and W states, also for no apparent reason, and express surprise about which one of them happens to have the largest value. State that this means that whichever one had the highest value is somehow “more entangled” than the other one. For bonus points, perform the calculation for arbitrary stabilizer states or graph states, also for no apparent reason. Invent a name for the measure that sounds suitably important and is obscure enough that nobody in quantum information knows what you are talking about, e.g. differential-geometric n-tangle variety.

    - Numerical computation of some randomly chosen entanglement measure for a many-body system with a randomly chosen Hamiltonian for no apparent reason. Do this only for pure states so that the chosen entanglement measure is essentially equivalent to a simple correlation measure. Claim that this gives new insight into condensed matter physics, even though all information obtained from the calculation is already present in the correlation function and has been known since the 1970s.

    - Choose a random positive, but not completely positive, map and use it to construct a separability criterion for no apparent reason. Investigate the entangled states that the criteria manages to detect. Get excited if it detects one of either GHZ or W class states but not the other. Find some other randomly chosen separability criterion in the literature and show that they detect different states. Acknowledge that this doesn’t solve the separability problem, but that the new criterion is better than anything else because it is “more easily computable”.

    3. Conclusion

    Conclude that the above considerations gives new insight into quantum information and/or condensed matter physics, despite having provided no evidence to substantiate this.

  3. #3 G
    March 31, 2009

    What about “topological”?

  4. #4 agrees with matt Leifer
    March 31, 2009

    I have to go with entanglement.

  5. #5 Jonathan Vos Post
    March 31, 2009

    String. Except for tying stuff.

    Phrases that set my teeth on edge:

    “For your convenience…”

    “Due to circumstances beyond our control…”

    and any phone call that refers to “your credit card” without specifying once.

    Oh, wait a minute. Quantum Computing.



  6. #6 matt
    March 31, 2009

    Yeah, Matt. I’m going to go with “insight” being the most abused word in all of science. Or maybe “impacts”. This research impacts quantum information by providing new insight into entanglement. Yeah.

  7. #7 astephens
    April 1, 2009

    I haven’t heard parallelism for a while now so I’m voting for scalable.

  8. #8 John Preskill
    April 1, 2009

    I don’t see anything cringe-worthy about any of these words. In fact, most of my papers start with sentences that contain all of them, such as: “Quantum computing is scalable when we use a robust nonlocal encoding that is exponentially insensitive to external influences.” I can easily work in “entanglement” and “topological” if I’m in the mood.

  9. #9 llewelly
    April 1, 2009

    I’m tempted to go with entanglement, like matt, but really, ‘quantum’ takes the cake.

  10. #10 Who Cares
    April 1, 2009

    Other: Perfect
    I’m getting a bit cranky by the overuse of the word for everything that just requires high precision. And usually it is implied in the wording. E.g perfectly level. what is the difference between that and ‘just’ level.

  11. #11 PG
    April 2, 2009

    Are you saying quantum mechanics is about “narcotics”?

  12. #12 Pieter Kok
    April 2, 2009

    Since the question is about the most abused word in quantum computing, I’m guessing the computer scientists go with “Exponential”, philosophers of physics choose “Nonlocal”, and experimental physicists are torn between “Robust” and “Scalable”. For theoretical physicists see John Preskill’s comment. :-)

  13. #13 John Sidles
    April 2, 2009

    I happen to think the quality of the QIT literature is very high … the only QIT word that bothers me a little bit is the word “spooky” … and even that word is OK, if accompanied by some mathematics.

  14. #14 Kaveh
    April 6, 2009

    I am wondering if the other New Hampshire residents polled are indeed the rest of our group. “local” vs “nonloacal” I guess.

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