Walk up to a physicist at a party (we could add a conditional about the amount of beer consumed by the physicist at this point, but that would be redundant, it is a party after all), and say to him or her “4 pages.” I’ll bet you that 99 percent of the time the physicist’s immediate response will be the three words “Physical Review Letters.” PRL, a journal of the American Physical Society, is one of the top journals to publish in as a physicist, signaling to the mating masses whether you are OK and qualified to be hired as faculty at (insert your college name here). I jest! (As an aside, am I the only one who reads what APS stands for and wonders why I have to see the doctor to try out for high school tennis?) In my past life, before I passed away as Pontiff, I was quite proud of the PRLs I’d been lucky enough to have helped with, including one that has some cool integrals, and another that welcomes my niece into the world.
Wait, wht?!? Yes, in “Coherence-Preserving Quantum Bits” the acknowledgement include a reference to my brother’s newborn daughter. Certainly I know of no other paper where such acknowledgements to a beloved family member is given. The other interesting bit about that paper is that we (okay probably you can mostly blame me) originally entitled it “Supercoherent Quantum Bits.” PRL, however, has a policy about new words coined by authors, and, while we almost made it to the end without the referee or editor noticing, they made us change the title because “Supercoherent Quantum Bits” would be a new word. Who would have thought that being a PRL editor meant you had to be a defender of the lexicon? (Good thing Ben didn’t include qubits in his title.)
Which brings me to the subject of this post. This is a cool paper. It shows that a very nice quantum error correcting code due to Bravyi and Haah admits a transversal (all at once now, comrades!) controlled-controlled-phase gate, and that this, combined with another transversal gate (everyone’s fav the Hadamard) and fault-tolerant quantum error correction is universal for quantum computation. This shows a way to not have to use state distillation for quantum error correction to perform fault-tolerant quantum computing, which is exciting for those of us who hope to push the quantum computing threshold through the roof with resources available to even a third world quantum computing company.
What does this have to do with PRL? Well this paper has four pages. I don’t know if it is going to be submitted or has already been accepted at PRL, but it has that marker that sets off my PRL radar, bing bing bing! And now here is an interesting thing I found in this paper. The awesome amazing very cool code in this paper is defined via its stabilizer
I I I I I I IXXXXXXXX; I I I I I I I ZZZZZZZZ,
I I IXXXXI I I IXXXX; I I I ZZZZ I I I I ZZZZ,
IXXI IXXI IXXI IXX; I ZZ I I ZZ I I ZZ I I ZZ,
XIXIXIXIXIXIXIX; Z I Z I Z I Z I Z I Z I Z I Z,
This takes up a whopping 4 lines of the article. Whereas the disclaimer, in the acknowledgements reads
The U.S. Government is authorized to
reproduce and distribute reprints for Governmental pur-
poses notwithstanding any copyright annotation thereon.
Disclaimer: The views and conclusions contained herein
are those of the authors and should not be interpreted
as necessarily representing the official policies or endorse-
ments, either expressed or implied, of IARPA, DoI/NBC,
or the U.S. Government.
Now I’m not some come-of-age tea party enthusiast who yells at the government like a coyote howls at the moon (I went to Berkeley damnit, as did my parents before me.) But really, have we come to a point where the god-damn disclaimer on an important paper is longer than the actual definition of the code that makes the paper so amazing?
Before I became a ghost pontiff, I had to raise money from many different three, four, and five letter agencies. I’ve got nothing but respect for the people who worked the jobs that help supply funding for large research areas like quantum computing. In fact I personally think we probably need even more people to execute on the civic duty of getting funding to the most interesting and most trans-form-ative long and short term research projects. But really? A disclaimer longer than the code which the paper is about? Disclaiming, what exactly? Erghhh.