Quantum Bayesian Networks

November 25, 2011

Il Trionfo Di King Kong (The Triumph of King Kong)

Filed under: Uncategorized — rrtucci @ 3:16 pm

“King Kong vs. Godzilla” (1962) is a Japanese movie which has been translated to more languages than the Bible. (Eat your heart out Akira Kurosawa) As one might expect, there is an extensive Wikipedia entry for this important cultural classic. Here are some of its original movie posters, in various languages.

If you want to see many more posters for this movie, go here.

Ahhh, they don’t make movies like they used to. 

Who wins the fight? I promise not to tell. 

Currently there is a titanic battle raging on between Geordie Rose (alias King Kong, founder and Chief Technology Officer of D-Wave), and Scott Aaronson (alias Godzilla, or just God to his converts, MIT professor of theoretical computer science). 

We were taught in English class to look for the deep symbolism in everything mentioned in a novel, even if it’s a Harry Potter novel, for crying out loud. So let’s say that in this case, for the purposes of this, my book report, I’ll say that Geordie Rose symbolizes QC Industry and Scott Aaronson symbolizes QC Academia. 

One would think that Academia and Industry would be natural friends and allies. But for some reason, they aren’t. They are always poopooing each other. Besides, Society is goading them to fight on. She enjoys watching a good death-match between two gladiators. 

Recently Geordie/King Kong/Industry has been throwing some heavy barrels in the direction of Scott/Godzilla/Academia. In modern times, we need a photo, taken with an iPhone, to corroborate what we are saying, to capture the moment and post it on Facebook. So here is a photo capturing the moment.

Of course, this photo is deeply symbolic of something or other. Indeed, it symbolizes that recently Geordie/King Kong has landed some painful punches on Scott/Godzilla. Six months ago, King Kong signed a 10 million dollar contract with Lockheed Martin, and this week he has finished installing one of his computers at USC (University of Southern Calf.) at Marina del Rey, thus creating the first Quantum Computing Center ever. One can imagine how Shakespeare would have seen it: 
Industria: “Eateth thy heart out, MIT”. 
Academia: “Et tu, USC-Brute? Then fall, MIT-Caesar!”. 
USC’s California weather sure beats MIT’s crappy Boston weather. MIT should thank God for IQC at Waterloo (whose weather is even crappier). 

King Kong is also doing some REAL quantum computer programming instead of the ersatz variety. He is fostering the field of quantum computer programming by opening a “developer portal“. Very nice move, King Kong! 

I wouldn’t discount Godzilla yet, though. He might get as angry as a hornet’s nest, and respond with a surprise hook to the jaw. He might unleash upon King Kong a terrifying theorem that gives a lower bound on the complexity of an algorithm that solves some obscure problem that no one has ever heard of. 

November 17, 2011

By Jove! A String Theory Boffin is Selling Quantum Computers on the Telly!!!???

Filed under: Uncategorized — rrtucci @ 4:41 pm

Brian Greene, not to be confused with the wonderful dead British writer Graham Greene, is a String Theorist. (Audience reaction may vary here, running from Gulp to Wow-Wee to Huh? to Yawn to Yuck).

Brian “the Brain” Greene has written many technical papers on String Theory and 4 popular science books about the subject. Public television in the US (PBS) is currently airing a “Nova” TV documentary with Brian Greene as the main narrator. It’s a series of 4 one-hour-long episodes, mostly about high energy physics, titled “The Fabric Of the Cosmos”. It’s an uneven series. For instance, I thought Episode 2, titled “The Illusion of Time”, was really crappy—very shallow, often misleading and incorrect in the physics (Lubos Motl wrote a blog post with which I mostly agree, that describes some of the serious flaws in the physics of Episode 2).

Okay, but this is a family blog about quantum computing. All the quantum computing news (or at least some of it) that’s fit to print, all the time. WTF does a documentary by a String Theorist have to do with quantum computing?

The answer is Episode 3, titled “Quantum Leap”. I thought it was much better than Episode 2. It gives a very nice introduction, for non-scientists, to quantum mechanics: its history, how we arrived at it, why we are stuck with it whether we like it or not (like your mom was with you), why it’s weird, what is quantum entanglement, what is quantum teleportation, what is the promise of quantum computing. You also get to hear the voices and see the faces of some famous people in the field. (The human interest angle.)

If you haven’t seen Episode 3, I recommend it. Here is the PBS webpage for the series.

Perhaps Episode 3 is a bit too glitzy or gimmicky for you. It’s debatable whether all those computer generated visual enhancements help you to understand physics better, or distract your attention from the essential points. Sometimes a crude, black and white, hand drawn cartoon or animation is much more instructive and beautiful than all the computer graphics in the world.

If you want a less high-tech, but super excellent introduction to quantum mechanics for the general public, I recommend Feynman’s Messenger lectures.

I’d also like to mention here one of my all-time-favorite science TV documentaries, “The Secret Life of Machines” (quantum computers is machines, not math! Soylent Green is people!)

November 4, 2011

The unicorn in the garden

Filed under: Uncategorized — rrtucci @ 1:40 pm

James Thurber (1894-1961) was an American writer with a simple yet very beautiful and witty writing style. He is best known for his funny short stories and cartoons that appeared in the New Yorker magazine. Among his most famous short stories are such classics as “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, which is frequently read in English class in American high schools.

James Thurber described quantum computing in his writings. Below I’ve crossed out a few of the words in one of his stories and replaced them by equivalents.

The unicornQUANTUM COMPUTER in the garden
by James Thurber

Once upon a sunny morning a man who sat in a breakfast nook looked up from his scrambled eggs to see a white unicornQUANTUM COMPUTER with a golden hornFUTURE quietly cropping the rosesCNOTs in the garden. The man went up to the bedroom where his wife was still asleep and woke her. “There’s a unicornQUANTUM COMPUTER in the garden,” he said. “Eating rosesCNOTs.” She opened one unfriendly eye and looked at him. “The unicornQUANTUM COMPUTER is a mythical beast,” she said, and turned her back on him. The man walked slowly downstairs and out into the garden. The unicornQUANTUM COMPUTER was still there; he was now browsing among the tulipsQUBIT ROTATIONS. “Here, unicornQUANTUM COMPUTER,” said the man and pulled up a lilyTOFFOLI GATE and gave it to him. The unicornQUANTUM COMPUTER ate it gravely. With a high heart, because there was a unicornQUANTUM COMPUTER in his garden, the man went upstairs and roused his wife again. “The unicornQUANTUM COMPUTER,” he said, “ate a lilyTOFFOLI GATE.” His wife sat up in bed and looked at him, coldly. “You are a QUANTUM COMPUTER-booby,” she said, “and I am going to have you put in a QUANTUM COMPUTER-booby-hatch.” The man, who never liked the words “QUANTUM COMPUTER-booby” and “QUANTUM COMPUTER-booby-hatch,” and who liked them even less on a shining morning when there was a unicornQUANTUM COMPUTER in the garden, thought for a moment. “We’ll see about that,” he said. He walked over to the door. “He has a golden horn in the middle of his foreheadFUTURE,” he told her. Then he went back to the garden to watch the unicornQUANTUM COMPUTER; but the unicornQUANTUM COMPUTER had gone away. The man sat among the rosesCNOTs and went to sleep.
 And as soon as the husband had gone out of the house, the wife got up and dressed as fast as she could. She was very excited and there was a gloat in her eye. She telephoned the police and she telephoned the psychiatrist; she told them to hurry to her house and bring a strait-jacket. When the police and the psychiatrist arrived they sat down in chairs and looked at her, with great interest. “My husband,” she said, “saw a unicornQUANTUM COMPUTER this morning.” The police looked at the psychiatrist and the psychiatrist looked at the police. “He told me it ate a lilyTOFFOLI GATE,” she said. The psychiatrist looked at the police and the police looked at the psychiatrist. “He told me it had a golden horn in the middle of its foreheadFUTURE,” she said. At a solemn signal from the psychiatrist, the police leaped from their chairs and seized the wife. They had a hard time subduing her, for she put up a terrific struggle, but they finally subdued her. Just as they got her into the strait-jacket, the husband came back into the house.
 “Did you tell your wife you saw a unicornQUANTUM COMPUTER?” asked the police. “Of course not,” said the husband. “The unicornQUANTUM COMPUTER is a mythical beast.” “That’s all I wanted to know,” said the psychiatrist. “Take her away. I’m sorry, sir, but your wife is as crazy as a jay bird.” So they took her away, cursing and screaming, and shut her up in an institution. The husband lived happily ever after.
Moral: Don’t count your boobies until they are hatched.

An excellent film was made of this short story. It can can be viewed, for example, here, on the YouTube boob tube.

November 2, 2011

A Halloween Conference Story

Filed under: Uncategorized — rrtucci @ 1:27 pm

It all started innocently enough. I spotted in a leading blog a notice for a QUANTUM INFORMATION THEORY CONFERENCE, to be held on Oct 31. After much effort to get into the conference, I was finally there. I remember mostly the first day. It was a grueling day, in which I tried my best to absorb 8 hours of mind-numbing theory chats.

Chats about stuff with no practical application whatsoever. Chats that made a mountain out of a molehill. Long, perverse chats that used the most abstract math ever devised by man to explain stuff that could be adequately explained in seconds with simple calculus and linear algebra. Poorly motivated chats. Chats shrouded in jargon, impenetrable even by someone with a Ph.D. in physics. Chats by junior people who were blindly and enthusiastically extending the work of their senior mentors, even though the work of their mentors was lackluster and pointless to begin with.

I bravely tried that first day to absorb those 8 hours of minutiae. I so much wanted to be allowed to join their tribe. This was the price I had to pay to get in. Little did I know what kind of tribe I was trying to join…

At the end of that first day, I passed out. When I came to, I noticed that my brain had been sucked out of my skull. I was now a living dead, a zombie. I was able to attend and much enjoyed the remaining 2 days of the conference. The other conference attendees opened up to me after that. They said nice things to me, like “Let’s go and eat more brains” and “Your brain tasted good”. I was now a member of their tribe… a tribe of zombies.

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