Congratulations to Cirac and Zoller

I'm not sure what the BBVA Foundation is, but they've awarded a Basic Science prize to Ignacio Cirac and Peter Zoller:

The Basic Sciences award in this inaugural edition of the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Awards has been shared by physicists Peter Zoller (Austria, 1952) and Ignacio Cirac (Manresa, 1965), "for their fundamental work on quantum information science", in the words of the jury chaired by Theodor W. Hänsch, Nobel Prize in Physics. Zoller and Cirac's research is opening up vital new avenues for the development of quantum computers, immensely more powerful than those we know today.

[...]Peter Zoller and Ignacio Cirac are regarded as the theoretical physicists of most influence in the areas of cold atoms, quantum optics and quantum information. For more than a decade, their work has broken new ground and opened up new experimental opportunities. At the core of their research is the use of the microscopic world to build quantum computers and communication systems.

Their first major theoretical contribution, dating from 1995, was the description of a theoretical model for a quantum computer. They based their conjectures on what are known as ion traps, in which electrically charged and cooled atoms are trapped by an electric field and manipulated with lasers. Today, this technique still holds out the best promise for quantum computation. In fact some small-scale prototypes of quantum computers have already been built based on the ion trap idea. In the last few years, work done at numerous laboratories has confirmed Zoller and Cirac's theoretical predictions.

I don't think I've ever met Cirac, but I talked to Zoller a few times when I was doing BEC stuff at Yale. He's one of those rare people who's scary smart but also a really nice guy. And the Cirac-Zoller paper really is one of the main launching points for the quantum computing industry, so this is a well deserved award.


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I'm the opposite in that I've never met Zoller, but Cirac a few times. He's a powerhouse of good results in quantum information so it is a prize well earned.

I'm not sure what the BBVA Foundation is

It's a quasi non-profit foundation associated with a Spanish bank (BBVA = Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, which is something like the second largest bank in Spain).

(It's a peculiarity of Spanish banking law that the banks have these foundations, which tend to promote the arts and sciences in various ways -- some background in this NY Times article.)