Quantum Bayesian Networks

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!)

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