Quantum Bayesian Networks

February 27, 2013

My Prediction For 2013: “Professor, I’ll have some fries with that exam”

Filed under: Uncategorized — rrtucci @ 4:34 pm

On January of each year, it has become my habit to post in this blog a yearly prediction. I forgot to make one this year, so here it is.

This prediction is not directly related to quantum computers, but it might be related to them indirectly. The prediction has to do with the future role of universities and their professors in scientific research. Although currently most quantum computing research is done by university professors, this may not be true for much longer. The role of university professors is currently undergoing rapid, drastic changes. In the future, university professors may be so busy teaching or performing clerical duties that they won’t be able to devote sufficient time to their scientific research activities. If you are young and want to do research in quantum computing, maybe you should consider starting a company rather than becoming a university professor.

University level online education has been around for more than a decade, some of it offered by universities themselves. However, most universities, afraid that such modern teaching techniques could spell the end of their highly lucrative racket, have portrayed online education as being only a supplementary educational tool, in no sense to be thought of as a serious alternative to a campus education. But the times, they are a-changing.

The Khan Academy, started in 2006, put universities to shame, showing how just one person can teach Calculus and other engineering subjects FOR FREE to tens of millions of people, in dozens of languages. Meanwhile, famous American universities have continued to increase their yearly tuitions to astronomical levels (MIT yearly tuition for 2012-2013: $42,000).

The newest trend in online education, and one which is catching on like wildfire (Coursera only started 2 years ago and already has had millions of enrollees), is MOOCs, massive open online courses, so called because these courses have “massive” enrolments, sometimes in the tens of thousands of students. Enrollment is free, at least for now. Tests are only of the multiple choice kind and machine graded (like SATs), but you get to ask your questions to thousands of attentive live ears.

Two of the biggest MOOC players are Coursera and EdX. Coursera was started by Stanford profs, and EdX by MIT/Harvard profs. I like to call Coursera the robber baron capitalist team and EdX the Marxist/Stallman-ist communist one. The capitalists have venture capital funding and tout themselves as a startup, whereas the communists were started as an effort to stymie the capitalists, and they have no VC funding (they are funded by charitable grants). The capitalists and the communists are in fierce competition. Currently, the capitalists are trouncing the communists. Here is the score board, as of Feb 2013:

Capitalist Team (Coursera)
62 Universities (https://www.coursera.org/universities).
323 courses.

Communist Team (EdX)
12 Universities but only 3 (MIT, Harvard, Berkeley) currently offering courses.
25 courses.

I think that the EdX people are destined to lose the competition and fade away into oblivion. To begin with, their name really sucks. Furthermore, my impression is that their heart isn’t really in what they are doing. Their goal seems to be merely to perpetuate the old thinking that online education is a nice supplement but not an alternative to campus education, and that universities are a not-for-profit institution (that might be true technically, but is it true spiritually?). Nobody believes those fibs anymore.

My prediction: (I’m not saying that this prediction is necessarily what I want the future to be. I’m just saying that I believe that the inexorable market forces will produce this result in the end.)

My prediction is that in future (in the next 10-20 years?), most research will no longer be done by universities but rather by companies or public labs, like Bell Labs, Google, IBM, NIST, CERN, etc. The most prestigious universities will become for profit businesses. Each of them will have dozens or even thousands of frachisees throughout the world (The McDonald’s model). Franchisees will be entrusted with running miniscule (by current university campus standards) outlets where students can take supervised tests. Also, those outlets will be used to give the occasional lab course and to hold social meetups. Students will do most of their learning online. They will no longer have to travel to another country to go to McMIT or McHarvard or McStanford. Most university professors, with the exception of the very few superstars that actually “act” in the training videos, will perform menial roles similar to those of McDonald’s minimum wage employees, and have to ask questions like, would you like some fries with that exam? Most present day university professors are royal peacocks enamored with themselves. This will be quite a blow to their egos.

February 19, 2013

Quantum Noyce, We Need You!

Filed under: Uncategorized — rrtucci @ 5:38 pm

we need youAmerican Experience” (AE) is a superb series of documentaries about quirky and transformational events of American History. It’s made by American public TV (more specifically, by the PBS station WGBH in Boston). AE has produced about 250 episodes in its 25 years of existence. Wikipedia has a complete list of all the episodes that AE has produced throughout the years.

I find most AE programs fascinating. Not only do they present the dry facts of history, but also its gossipy details, making it come alive as a vivid portrayal of human beings, with all their strengths and weaknesses. The AE and Ken Burns’ documentaries would make a wonderful complement to any American History course.

I would recommend any of the AE episodes. They are all great. However, one has to begin somewhere, and this being a blog about quantum computing, let me emphasize one recent episode entitled “Silicon Valley” about the history of microprocessors (the precursors and lesser siblings of quantum computers). 

Here is the teaser, taken from the PBS website, for the “Silicon Valley” episode:

In 1957, decades before Steve Jobs dreamed up Apple or Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook, a group of eight brilliant young men defected from the Shockley Semiconductor Company in order to start their own transistor business. Their leader was 29-year-old Robert Noyce, a physicist with a brilliant mind and the affability of a born salesman who would co-invent the microchip — an essential component of nearly all modern electronics today, including computers, motor vehicles, cell phones and household appliances.

The entire film (82 mins.) and its transcript are available at this PBS webpage (Information magically available to anyone. What a wonderful age we live in, a golden age for education and research, reminiscent of 1453, when Constantinople fell to the Turks and the Renaissance Period officially began).

Check out also
The Wikipedia article on Noyce includes links to his milestone patents. Noyce, together with Gordon Moore and Andy Grove, went on to found the Intel company. Intel built the first microprocessor and is today the world’s largest semiconductor maker. A company that was once insanely great but which has lost its bearings and its once highly innovative spirit. I say this because Intel has done next to nothing to help develop the next generation of microprocessors, the quantum computer ones. (Related blog posts: Intel-The Reluctant Natural, and Intel Waffles)

Call me a zealot, or a fanatic, but there is no doubt in my mind that quantum computers will be built some day soon. As Lubos Motl pointed out recently and quite eloquently (see comment 47 here), there appears to be nothing in fundamental physics that forbids us from building QCs. Furthermore, over the last ten years, experimentalists have made smooth and substantial progress in taming the dragon of decoherence.

Now all we need is for our Quantum Noyce to show up. Surely, our Messiah 🙂 has already been born and is walking among us.

Other AE episodes of scientific & technological interest (this is a subset of the Wikipedia list of all AE episodes):

Edison’s Miracle of Light
Wright Stuff, The (on the Wright brothers)
Telephone, The
Big Dream, Small Screen (on television)
Race for the Super Bomb
Wizard of Photography, The
Streamliners: America’s Lost Trains
Great Transatlantic Cable, The
Living Weapon, The (on biological weapons)
Panama Canal
Grand Coulee Dam

Great Air Race of 1924, The
Satellite Sky, The
Race to the Moon

Silicon Valley

Henry Ford
Richest Man in the World, The: Andrew Carnegie
Rockefellers, The (1)
Rockefellers, The (2)

Of course, all the Nova episodes are also of scientific & technological interest.

February 8, 2013

Lubos Motl on the Road to Damascus

Filed under: Uncategorized — rrtucci @ 9:42 pm

Tales of religious conversion are of widespread interest.

A famous one is the one of Saint Paul the Apostle (5 AD-67 AD), from Tarsus, Turkey. During the first half of his life, Saint Paul was an orthodox Jew who ruthlessly and zealously persecuted those Jews who were Christians, i.e., followers of the teachings of Jesus Christ who believed Jesus to be the Messiah promised to Israel in the Old Testament. (Jesus was already dead and supposedly resurrected by then.) During a trip from Jerusalem to Damascus, Paul fell from his horse and hit his head, whereupon he had a vision of Jesus Christ, enveloped by a great light (of millions of lumens). The light of the vision was so powerful that it left him blind for 3 days, at the end of which he regained his sight thanks to a miracle performed on him by a saint called Ananias of Damascus. After the vision, Saint Paul dedicated the rest of his life to spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. He went on to found many chapters of the Christian Fraternity throughout the Mediterranean basin. The 13 epistles of the New Testament are due to him. (An epistle is a book from the New Testament of the Bible in the form of a letter from an Apostle: eg. Saint Paul’s epistle to the Romans.) Saint Paul appears to have been on friendly terms with the first Christian pope, Saint Peter, although there is at least one documented incident when they had a spat (Incident at Antioch)

More recently, Lubos Motl, an orthodox String Theorist committed to persecuting the Smolin/Woit crackpots of the world, fell from his bicycle and hit his head during a trip from Jerusalem Street to Damascus Street in his home town of Pissner, Czechia. The fall blinded Lubos for 3 days, but then a Czech porn star and amateur quantum computerist named Ana restored his sight. In gratitude, Lubos has now decided to spend the rest of his life spreading the sacred word of how quantum computers ain’t all that dumb, since they are just a trivial consequence of string theory. Lubos intends to write at least 130 modern epistles, aka blog posts, about quantum computing and to spread the QC faith throughout the String Theory basin. He has even uttered, though reluctantly, some mildly flattering words about the current QC pope, Scott Aaronson. Lubos and il Papa are in complete agreement in their beliefs that there is nothing in physics that will prevent us from building quantum computers. Despite this agreement, since these are two dogs that love to bark, they still find reasons to have friendly barking matches with each other. Such barking matches can be quite amusing to witness since these are undoubtedly two very smart dogs. Who knows what the QC future holds: maybe The Lubos Quantum Computer, built by Rumanian slave child laborers at the Lubos Plant in Czechia?

The Conversion of St. Paul, by Nicolas-Bernard Lepicie, 1767. Lubos falls off from his bicycle, which resembles a horse

The Conversion of St. Paul, by Nicolas-Bernard Lepicie, 1767. (Lubos falls off from his bicycle, which resembles a horse, by artistic license)

Ananias restoring the sight of Saint Paul, by
Pietro da Cortona, 1631 (St. Ananias can be seen patting Lubos on the head for being a good String Theorist. His daughter Ana can be seen right behind him.)

February 1, 2013

Quantum Discord Brains

Filed under: Uncategorized — rrtucci @ 5:59 pm

Of course, my blog on quantum computing would not be complete without a post on quantum discord. So here it goes:

They number in the hundreds and make a lot of noise.

They hate quantum entanglement because they say it is too taxing for their brains. “Too hard. Doesn’t taste good”, they say.

They appear to be involved in deep conversation with each other about an important scientific subject. “Quantum discord brains taste better than quantum entanglement brains”, they cry.

I for one can’t understand what they are saying. Their conversation sounds to me like simply a series of grunts and moans, punctuated by an occassional wistful cry of either:

“Let’s eat more quantum discord brains”

“Quantum discord brains is a unique quantum resource”

“We don’t need to eat no stinking quantum computing algorithms. Quantum discord brains is all the nutrition we need”

“Let’s meet at Vlatko Vedral’s home. He good zombie leader. He set up 2012 quantum discord zombie jamboree for us”.

I left my heart in San Francisco“. “I left my brain in Singapore CQT” is a popular song among zombies.


The Quantum Discord Zombie Hordes are upon us. This would make a good poster for a quantum computing algorithms or a quantum entanglement conference. (I’m not the painter of this awesome drawing. I’m not sure of its provenance)

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