4 Pages

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.

This entry was posted in Go Ahead, Waste Your Time, Off The Deep End, Physics, Quantum, The Loony Bin Called Academia. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to 4 Pages

  1. Steve says:

    That is a really cool paper. One of the students here just gave the group meeting talk about it. It’s always fascinating to see how no-go theorems (in this case the Eastin-Knill theorem) can be circumvented to get results that are somehow “just as good”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  2. David Poulin says:

    Luckily, acknowledgements (where the disclaimer usually appears) are not part of the word count anymore http://publish.aps.org/authors/length-guide

    Things have changed since you left…

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    • aram says:

      I wonder if I could bury theorem proofs in the acknowledgments. “I am grateful to the 1369 Coffeehouse where I came up with the following awesome proof of lemma 7.”

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  3. Ken Brown says:

    As a lawyerly note, PRL won’t publish disclaimers but IARPA insists on them. The sort of truce is that the disclaimers go in the arxiv version but never show up in any Phys. Rev.

    I agree with Steve that getting around no-go theorems without breaking them is amazing.

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