Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Schrödinger's frog goes ...

qubit ... qubit.

(Thank you, thank you. I'll be here all week.)

ANYway, I'm newly home from attending the Schrödinger Sessions, an intensive two-and-a-half-day program on quantum mechanics and its applications/implications aimed specifically at SF authors. For the 2016 version of the program, about twenty authors participated.

Probability distributions of an electron in an atom
The Schrödinger Sessions is orchestrated by the Joint Quantum Institute (joint referring to a partnership between the University of Maryland and the National Institute of Standards and Technology), with support from the American Physical Society. That's an impressive pedigree, I think you'll agree.

Trapped ions: prospective quantum bits (qubits)

I have a physics and computer-science background, and before turning to full-time writing I worked in CS and engineering for thirty years -- and there was still plenty to absorb. QM is a hot field in which phenomenal progress has been (and continues to be) made. Among my favorite topics at the sessions was quantum computing -- something which, back in my university days, neither the physics nor the computer-science curriculum envisioned. Other sessions delved into:
  • atomic clocks, 
  • superconductors and superfluids, 
  • the nature of the quantum vacuum, 
  • counter-intuitive features of quantum physics (that's pretty much all of them) (*), 
  • competing interpretations of what the mathematical formalism of QM means physically, and 
  • much, much more. 
(*) Including, of course, the puzzle/paradox/conundrum that is Schrödinger's cat.

And lest any of the participants leave the U Md (College Park) campus without their brain having exploded, we also covered -- bonus material -- some cosmological speculations and the recent first detection of gravitational waves.

Some days I just love my job :-)

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