QIP 2015

The website is up for QIP 2015, which will be held this year in beautiful Sydney, Australia. Here is a timeline of the relevant dates:

  • Submission of talks deadline: Sep 12, 2014
  • Submission of posters deadline: Oct 25, 2014
  • Decision on talks and posters submitted before talk deadline: Oct 20, 2014
  • Decision on posters submitted after talk deadline: Nov 15, 2014
  • Tutorial Session: Jan 10-11, 2015
  • Main Conference: Jan 12-16, 2015

And students, don’t worry, there are plans to include some student support scholarships, so we hope that many of you can attend. We’re looking forward to seeing you all here!

Sydney Postdoctoral Fellowships

The University of Sydney is now accepting applications for the Sydney Postdoctoral Fellowships. These are very competitive and prestigious university-wide fellowships, with terrific salary and benefits: a 3 year appointment with a A$99,000 annual salary and a A$25,000 discretionary research fund for travel, visitors, or equipment.
Because they are so competitive, you have to arrange for a faculty sponsor before applying. If you are interested in applying and joining the quantum physics group, then read the Sydney Postdoctoral Fellowship guidelines here:http://bit.ly/ZZ2r26. If you qualify, send me an email (sflammia at physics.usyd.edu.au) with a cover letter that briefly describes your qualifications and a short CV. In particular, please specify how you see yourself fitting in and complementing work within the rest of the quantum physics group at Sydney.
There are a few relevant deadlines: the deadline to secure a faculty sponsor is Friday 3 May, but the actual application deadline is 31 May, so you will have plenty of time to finish the application. However, because of the initial deadline, I will only consider applications before Tuesday the 30th of April.

Viacheslav Belavkin

I am sad to report that Viacheslav Belavkin recently passed away. One of the rarified few who made important contributions to quantum information in the 1970’s, Belavkin’s work was and is very significant in both physics and mathematics.
Belavkin won the Main State Prize of Russia (formerly the Lenin prize) in 1996, jointly with Stratanovich, for his contributions to stochastic calculus and the theory of quantum measurement.
I only met Belavkin once, while he was visiting the Perimeter Institute. He was dining alone, and had just finished dinner and was about to pay, so he told the server put the bill on the tab for Belavkin. Overhearing this, I turned to him and said “Oh, you’re Belavkin!” He was clearly pleased that I knew who he was, and over a beer he shared with me some of the very interesting history of the early days of quantum information theory. You can read for yourself Belavkin’s perspective on the early days of the field through his potted autobiography. (The link is to a web cache, since sadly the University of Nottingham has taken down his personal webpage.)
It was clear from my conversation with him that he was the quintessential jaded ex-Soviet scientist who had seen everything done 10 years ahead of its rediscovery in the West. He wasn’t very modest about his own discoveries, either. I distinctly remember him saying the following, “My first paper on quantum information theory was in 1972. And Stratanovich had some in the 60’s.” To his great credit, though, he was essentially correct! Much of his work was rediscovered in the 90’s, often in less generality.
Chris Fuchs told me a classic story about Belavkin, which I’ll recall as best I can. Sometime in the 90’s, Chris was at a conference along with many smart people working on continuous measurement and feedback control of quantum systems. When it was Belavkin’s turn to talk, he calmly took the chalk and began to recap the talks from the morning session where people had been presenting their recent work.
“This morning we heard a talk by Prof. Smith in which he proved the following theorem.”  Belavkin calmly scrawled the statement of the theorem on the board, in a formal style,

Theorem 1 [Smith, 1995]. For all x, there exists a y such that

He continued, “Then we heard a talk by Prof. Jones, where he proved the following.”  Once more, he carefully wrote the statement of the theorem on the board, just below the first one.  “And finally we heard from Prof. Brown, who demonstrated this theorem.”  Again, he patiently wrote the formal statement of the theorem on the board, with the name and date for attribution.
Belavkin paused for dramatic effect, then began writing new dates to the right of the theorems.  “In 1972 I proved Theorem 1.  In 1976 I proved Theorem 2.  And in 1985 I proved Theorem 3.  Now we will hear about some new results.”
Here is the notice of his passing from the University of Nottingham. I hope that they will make his old webpage available again.

Cirac and Zoller win the Wolf Prize for physics

(img credit: left/right)

Ignacio Cirac and Peter Zoller were just announced as winners of the 2013 Wolf Prize for physics. I’m not sure if this is the official citation, but the Jerusalem Post is saying the prize is:

for groundbreaking theoretical contributions to quantum information processing, quantum optics and the physics of quantum gases.

If that isn’t the official citation, then it is certainly an accurate assessment of their work.
Cirac and Zoller are in very good company: the list of previous Wolf Prize winners have all made exceptional contributions to physics, and many of them have gone on to win Nobel prizes.
It’s great to see these two giants of the field get the recognition that they richly deserve. Congratulations to both!

QIP 2015??

The following is a public service announcement from the QIP steering committee. (The “service” is from you, by the way, not the committee.)

Have you ever wondered why the Quantum Information Processing conference seems to travel everywhere except to your hometown? No need to wonder anymore. It’s because you haven’t organized it yet!
The QIP steering committee would like to encourage anyone tentatively interested in hosting QIP 2015 to register their interest with one of us by email prior to QIP 2013 in Beijing. The way it works is that potential hosts present their cases at this year’s QIP, there is an informal poll of the QIP audience, and then soon after, the steering committee chooses between proposals.
Don’t delay!

By the way, QIP 2014 is in Barcelona, so a loose tradition would argue that 2015 should be in North (or South!) America. Why? Some might say fairness or precedent, but for our community, perhaps a better reason is to keep the Fourier transform nice and peaked.

QIP 2013 accepted talks, travel grants

The accepted talk list for QIP 2013 is now online. Thomas Vidick has done a great job of breaking the list into categories and posting links to papers: see here. He missed only one that I’m aware of: Kamil Michnicki’s paper on stabilizer codes with power law energy barriers is indeed online at arXiv:1208.3496. Here are Thomas’s categories, together with the number of talks in each category.

  • Ground states of local Hamiltonians (4)
  • Cryptography (3)
  • Nonlocality (6)
  • Topological computing and error-correcting codes (4)
  • Algorithms and query complexity (6)
  • Information Theory (9)
  • Complexity (2)
  • Thermodynamics (2)

Other categorizations are also possible, and one important emerging trend (for some years now) is the way that the “information theory” has broadened far beyond quantum Shannon theory. To indulge in a little self-promotion, my paper 1210.6367 with Brandao is an example of how information-theoretic tools can be usefully applied to many contexts that do not involve sending messages at optimal rates.
It would be fascinating to see how these categories have evolved over the years. A cynic might say that our community is fad-driven, but instead I that the evolution in QIP topics represents our field working to find its identity and relevance.
On another note, travel grants are available to students and postdocs who want to attend QIP, thanks to funding from the NSF and other organizations. You don’t have to have a talk there, but being an active researcher in quantum information is a plus. Beware that the deadline is November 15 and this is also the deadline for reference letters from advisors.
So apply now!

Down Under

I have just moved to the University of Sydney to begin a permanent position here in the Department of Physics. I had a great time at the University of Washington, and I’ll miss working with the fantastic people there. I am looking forward, however, to contributing to the growth of an increasingly strong quantum group here, together with my new colleagues.
Wish me luck!
Also, a bit of general advice. If you want to submit things to QIP, it is generally not a good idea to schedule an international move for the same week as the submission deadline. 🙂
Finally, here are some photos to make you all jealous and to encourage you to visit.

Alexei Kitaev wins Fundamental Physics Prize

Alexei Kitaev was just named as a co-recipient of the inaugural Fundamental Physics Prize, along with 8 other distinguished physicists. This is a brand new prize which was started by a Russian billionaire named Yuri Milner. More at the New York Times. Alexei is credited in the citation as follows:

For the theoretical idea of implementing robust quantum memories and fault-tolerant quantum computation using topological quantum phases with anyons and unpaired Majorana modes.

This is without question a well-deserved award. I know I’m not the only one who has said, only half joking, that I work on “Kitaev Theory”. A hearty congratulations to Alexei.
There’s more to this story, though! Since the NYT highlights it, there is no dancing around the fact that this is the largest monetary prize in the history of physics: US $3 million! And with big money comes big controversy. From the NYT, my emphasis:

Unlike the Nobel in physics, the Fundamental Physics Prize can be awarded to scientists whose ideas have not yet been verified by experiments, which often occurs decades later. Sometimes a radical new idea “really deserves recognition right away because it expands our understanding of at least what is possible,” Mr. Milner said.
Dr. Arkani-Hamed, for example, has worked on theories about the origin of the Higgs boson, the particle recently discovered at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, and about how that collider could discover new dimensions. None of his theories have been proven yet. He said several were “under strain” because of the new data.

Given that this is worth more than the Nobel prize (“only” $1.2 million, usually shared by 3 people) what sort of incentives does this set up? I’m glad that Mr. Milner’s award will go to researchers with breakthrough ideas, but sometimes great ideas don’t agree with Nature! They will have other value, for sure, but is it too risky to reward “radical ideas” over correct ideas? Mr. Milner, who made his fortune investing in internet companies and knows a thing or two about risk, apparently doesn’t think so.
Update: Given that 5 of the recipients were string theorists, it is unsurprising that Peter Woit got there first to add some fuel to the fire.

Matt Hastings wins a Simons Investigator 2012 award

The Simons Foundation has just announced the recipients of the Simons Investigator awards for 2012. These awards are similar in spirit to the MacArthur awards: the recipients did not know they were under consideration for the grant, and you can’t apply for it. Rather, you must be nominated by a panel. Each award winner will each receive $100,000 annually for 5 years (and possibly renewable for an additional 5 years), and their departments and institutions each get annual contributions of $10,000 and $22,000 respectively.
This year, they made awards to a collection of 21 mathematicians, theoretical physicists, and theoretical computer scientists. There are a lot of good names on this list, but the one that overlaps most with the quantum information community is undoubtedly Matt Hastings. The citation for his award specifically mentions his important contributions to quantum theory such as the 1D area law and the stability result for topological order (joint with Bravyi and Michalakis). However, it doesn’t mention anything about superadditivity of quantum channels!
Here is the citation for those of you too lazy to click through:

Matthew Hastings’ work combines physical insight and mathematical power to make profound contributions to a range of topics in physics and related fields. His Ph.D. thesis produced breakthrough insights into the multifractal nature of diffusion-limited aggregation, a problem that had stymied statistical physicists for more than a decade. Hastings’ recent work has focused on proving rigorous results on fundamental questions of quantum theory, including the stability of topological quantum order under local perturbations. His results on area laws and quantum entanglement and his proof of  a remarkable extension of the Lieb-Schulz-Mattis theorem to dimensions greater than one have provided foundational mathematical insights into topological quantum computing and quantum mechanics more generally.

Congratulations to Matt and the rest of the 2012 recipients.