Four Weeks of Quantum Summer School
Inside the Government’s ‘Quantum Computing Summer School’
Excerpts and salient points ~
+ While we have a good sense of what they can do, if you ask a quantum computer person how the computers work, you likely won’t get a satisfying answer. That’s partly because it’s complicated. But it’s also because quantum mechanics has no practical bearing on our interactions with the world. Our brains did not evolve while observing Schrodinger’s Cat, and we did not spend our formative years watching entangled electrons. As physicist Richard Feynman famously put it, “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.”
Since getting plugged in once again, Holmes and 14 other students have been humming away on projects, going to lectures, and generally steeping themselves in the quantum-computing universe. It’s a subject that, for the most part, doesn’t exist in universities. Only a few schools offer courses and even fewer offer specializations.
+ But the hot core of LANL’s [Los Alamost National Labs] mission is nuclear security. And if quantum computers can successfully simulate atoms and particles, scientists can understand how the nuclear material inside existing bombs is behaving, what will happen as it sits inert, and what would happen if someone pressed the big red button. Since we’re not supposed to just blow up bombs in the desert anymore to understand them, scientists could simulate nuclear blasts (and the sitting-still bombs) on quantum computers.
+ Since the schools of the present weren’t preparing the quantum workforce of the future, LANL started the summer school last year to do so for them. In 2018, LANL had 90 applicants for 10 spots; this year, the program had 230 applicants for 15 spots. “It’s sort of a buyers’ market for us,” said Patrick Coles, a quantum physicist and the summer school’s organizer. And indeed, the lab does kind of buy its students, paying them a stipend to spend 10 weeks in the high altitudes of New Mexico, learning about the strange machines of the future.
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