Quantum Bayesian Networks

July 23, 2011

Quantum Computing Patent Trolls

Filed under: Uncategorized — rrtucci @ 7:09 pm

Quantum Computing has progressed significantly in the last few years, to the point where it might soon become a commercially viable technology. It’s very likely that, in the next few years, more QC companies besides D-Wave will crop up. Once that happens, patents will become fairly important in the QC industry.

If you are interested in quantum computing as an industry, it would be unwise to ignore patents, whether you like them or not. Small startups whose products are protected by patents that they own themselves, are more likely to be funded by venture capitalists. Large companies like IBM, Apple, Microsoft, etc, try to patent everything they can. They use their patent portfolios offensively, to kill small startups (although more often they just buy the startups out) or defensively, to threaten with mutually assured destruction other large companies that own equally formidable patent arsenals. American universities frequently patent the fruits of their research, even though that research is subsidized by the taxpayer.

In two previous posts, I gave my personal perspective about patents as they relate to quantum computing.

The NPR (National Public Radio) show “This American Life” just aired an episode on “patent trolls”. I thought it was excellent, very well done, a real eye-opener. Check it out:

441: When Patents Attack!
Originally aired 07.22.2011
(This American Life, NPR and WBEZ in Chicago)

A troll is an unpleasant mythical creature that lives under a bridge, and demands money from anyone who wants to use his bridge. A “patent troll” does the same thing with patents instead of bridges. Patent trolls are not small inventors or startups. They are giant corporations that do no inventing or manufacturing themselves. They just buy patents from small inventors and sue companies that are using the invention but refuse to pay exorbitant royalties.

I’m all in favor of patents, including software patents (I’m the author of a few QC software patents myself). However, I do agree with the main thesis of “When Patents Attack!” that the current US patent system works very poorly and needs serious reforms. (Reforms that favor small inventors, not giant corporations)

Each side in a patent lawsuit can end up spending 5 million dollars in legal costs. This pretty much puts the patent power game in the hands of large corporations and expensive lawyers and out of the hands of small inventors like me.

July 20, 2011

What’s It All About, Alfie?

Filed under: Uncategorized — rrtucci @ 8:14 am

The 1966 classic film Alfie is about a promiscuous young man, played by Michael Caine, who is clueless about what to do with his life and why. The first few lines of the movie’s theme song are:

What’s it all about, Alfie?
Is it just for the moment we live?
What’s it all about when you sort it out, Alfie?
Are we meant to take more than we give
Or are we meant to be kind?

The movie ends with Alfie asking the audience: “What’s it all about? You know what I mean.”

In this post, I don’t plan to tell Alfie what life is all about, since I’m still not sure myself. In lieu of that, I will explain to him (and you) what I think quantum computing is all about. In language hammed up enough to be worthy of being uttered by the great Michael Caine himself, this is my answer:

A Physics-Computer Science Collider
I see the field of quantum computing as a Large Ideas Collider. Instead of colliding two proton beams like the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) does, quantum computing collides two titanic fields: Physics and Computer Science. It asks the successors of Feynman and Turing to work together to build bridges between these two imposing fields, and perchance (if one can dream) to create a grand synthesis of the two.

An all too common human folly is to think that the field we are working in is the hub of the universe, that everything else turns around it, and around us. I’m not claiming that quantum computing is that. I can see that there are many other very important areas of human endeavor. What I am claiming is that quantum computing is a highly fundamental and nontrivial field, one that is well worth exploring because it is of infinite scientific, theoretical and technological interest.

I like the fact that the QC field has a clearly defined technological goal: to build a quantum computer. Other scientific fields don’t have as much specificity and clarity in their goals, or their goals are not of a technological nature. Planning strategy and allocating resources for the future can be done more easily and efficiently when one has clearly defined goals.

P.S. I’m very fond of making lists. In particular, I like to make them when I’m brain-storming ideas about a topic and organizing those ideas in a tree structure. In ancient times, I made my lists on paper, but this being the computer age, now I make them on a computer. I find it very useful to have a simple software tool that allows me to make hierarchical lists, lists with the little twisties so that I can hide all the items in a folder if I want to. I like software that allows me to easily add, delete and reorder the items in my lists. To make such lists on my Mac, I use a FREE (i.e., costs nothing) application that I found at the Apple website called Deep Notes. The lists in the above picture were made using Deep Notes.

July 11, 2011

Landauer’s Principle Explained by a Hooker from Montana

Filed under: Uncategorized — rrtucci @ 7:36 am

I love reading the blog of Robert Perry Hooker, a CS grad student at the University of Montana. I find him to be a very clear and insightful writer. We’ve never met or even exchanged emails, but he has me on his blogroll. Thanks Bob, says Bob. The admiration is mutual.

Landauer’s Principle is a topic about quantum information theory (QIP) that is fairly easy to explain, yet very interesting and nontrivial. That makes it a perfect candidate for a post in my blog. I was meaning to write such a post, but Bob Hooker has beat me to it. I highly recommend

Landauer’s Principle
(a blog post in Robert Perry Hooker’s eponymous blog)

I also recommend all other RP Hooker blog posts.

Rolf Landauer (1927 – 1999) was an IBM theoretical physicist that made important contributions to the theories that describe the transmission of electrons, noise and information, especially in small structures. He did not believe quantum computers would work, because of noise. As the old sayings go, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” and “Science advances one death at a time”. Of course, Landauer did not live to see all the exciting QC developments of the last decade. Maybe those would have changed his mind.

Landauer was a mentor to Charles H. Bennett (1943 – ), also an IBM theoretical physicist / computer scientist. Bennett has made MANY important contributions to quantum computing and quantum information theory. I’m pretty sure that Bennett does believe that QCs are possible. IBM is currently putting a lot of effort into building a QC (they are mainly going for one based on superconducting technology)

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