Quantum Computers Are…

Quantum computers are

  • Blue versions of classical computers [1] [2] [3][4]
  • Blue or grey abstract patterns [1] [2][3][4][5][6]
  • A bunch of connectors [1][2]
  • Blurred out chips [1]
  • What goes inside the dilution fridge [1][2][3]
  • Closed dilution fridges [1]
  • Part of a flag [1]
  • A button near the enter key [1]
  • Icy cold really big atoms [1]

Quantum computers are so many things (and no I will not add “all at once” to the end of this sentence)!  I’d be excited to hear about even more things that are quantum computers.

El Naschie works on entanglement now

El Naschie (top), shown photoshopped in with three Nobel laureates.

The Journal of Quantum Information Science will not be getting any of my papers starting today, because today is when I learned that they recently published the following gemA Resolution of Cosmic Dark Energy via a Quantum Entanglement Relativity Theory, by M. El Naschie.
Upon closer inspection, it isn’t hard to see why they published this paper. It’s because  “El Naschie is very highly regarded in the community” and is “always spoken of as a possible Nobel prize candidate”. And as the great man himself has said, “Senior people are above this childish, vain practice of peer review”, so there was no need for that.
Oh, but despite the apparent lack of peer review, they do have a $600 article processing charge for open access. I wonder what costs these charges are meant to offset if the “submit” button just puts the article straight into the publication? Hmmm, I hope that the journal didn’t simply accept money in exchange for publishing the paper under the pretense of “open access”! Golly, that would be unethical.

12 things a quantum information theorist should do at least once

By popular demand

  1. prove (or disprove) something by going to the Church of the Larger Hilbert Space
  2. apply amplitude amplification in a non-trivial way
  3. convince yourself you’ve proven that NP is contained in BQP, or at least that you have a poly-time quantum algorithm for graph isomorphism or dihedral HSP
  4. upper- or lower-bound a fault-tolerance threshold
  5. use the stabilizer formalism
  6. make use of convexity
  7. pick a random state or unitary from the Haar measure
  8. use an entropic quantity
  9. estimate or compute a spectral gap
  10. impress people in field X with your knowledge of something that everyone in field Y takes for granted, where X and Y are chosen from {CS, physics, some area of math, etc.}.
  11. confuse people in field X about the point of what you’re doing, when it’s a common goal in field Y.
  12. have a paper unjustly rejected or accepted by PRL.

Thanks to Ashley Montanaro for suggesting the first three.

Taken to School

Here is a fine piece of investigative journalism about a very wide spread scam that is plaguing academia. Definitely worth a watch.

I have a friend in Minsk…

Unlike the usual university plagiarism policy which is typically something bland copied from another university, the University of Bergen has explained the problem, and consequences, of plagiarism with Hollywood-level production values.

(Be sure to click on “CC” for the English subtitles.)
I came across the video from the blog of Andrew Gelman, who has long chronicled plagiarism and other forms of scientific misconduct. From his post, I also learned about my new favorite plagiarism story.

Randomized Governance

What if instead of electing our representatives in government, we simply chose them at random?
A new Rasmussen poll asked 1,000 likely voters exactly this question. Turns out, 43% thought that a random choice of people from the phonebook would do a better job than the current legislators, a plurality. Of course, these people were themselves chosen randomly from a phonebook, so I’m not sure they are entirely unbiased. 🙂
But why stop at the legislators? Why not just write random legislation using context-free grammars? We already have software that can automatically write scientific papers, so it doesn’t seem like a stretch. I guess that a lot of this random legislation would be better than SOPA.

More cracks in the theory of relativity?

When the OPERA collaboration announced their result that they had observed neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light, it rocked the entire physics community. However, despite the high statistical certainty of the claim, any sober physicist knew that the possibility of systematic errors means that we must patiently wait for additional independent experiments. Einstein’s theory hasn’t been overthrown yet!

Or has it?

Enter the good folks at Conservapedia, a “conservative, family-friendly Wiki encyclopedia.” They have helpfully compiled a list of 39 counterexamples to relativity, and noted that “any one of them shows that the theory of relativity is incorrect.” In fact, relativity “is heavily promoted by liberals who like its encouragement of relativism and its tendency to mislead people in how they view the world.” That is already damning evidence, but you really must look at the list.

A few of them actually have some partial grounding in reality. For example,

6. Spiral galaxies confound relativity, and unseen “dark matter” has been invented to try to retrofit observations to the theory.

Most of them, however, are either factually challenged or irrelevant:

14. The action-at-a-distance by Jesus, described in John 4:46-54, Matthew 15:28, and Matthew 27:51.

18. The inability of the theory of relativity to lead to other insights, contrary to every extant verified theory of physics.

Why are these scientists at OPERA wasting tax payer’s money on their silly experiments when they can just check this list? And to Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh: please post your predictions for the LHC to the arXiv soon, before all the data gets analyzed.

Update from Aram: Ironically, conservativepedians don’t like Einstein’s relativity because of its occasional use as a rhetorical flourish in support of cultural relativism. (I agree that using it in this manner constitutes bad writing, and a terribly mixed metaphor.) But by denouncing relativity as a liberal conspiracy along with evolution and global warming, they’ve demonstrated their own form of intellectual relativism: the idea that there is no objective truth, but that we are all entitled to believe whatever facts about the world we prefer. At the risk of improving the credibility of Conservapedia, I made this point on their talk page. Let’s see how long it lasts.

Ig Nobels 2011

Yes, it’s that time of year again. The Ig Nobel Prize ceremony was held this evening at Harvard. My favorite is the winner of the Ig Nobel Peace Prize, which went to

Arturas Zuokas, the mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania, for demonstrating that the problem of illegally parked luxury cars can be solved by running them over with an armoured tank.

This could have plausibly gotten him an Ig Nobel in economics instead, since it’s all about incentives. The video is priceless:

As of right now, the list of winners is still not up at the home page for the Annals of Improbable Research. That link should start working shortly, but until then I found this article from the BBC which gives complete coverage of the event. Enjoy!
Of course, this means that we will know the winners of the “real” Nobels soon enough. Put your best guess for the Physics prize in the comments.

Hippy Software Licenses

One of my favorite software licenses is the Beerware license, here in a version due to Poul-Henning Kamp:

* --------------------------------------------------------------
* "THE BEER-WARE LICENSE" (Revision 42):
* <> wrote this file. As long as you retain
* this notice you can do whatever you want with this stuff.
* If we meet some day, and you think this stuff is worth it,
* you can buy me a beer in return Poul-Henning Kamp
* --------------------------------------------------------------

Recently I came across a license of a form I’d never seen before, this one for one of the top graph isomorphism software programs, nauty:

Copyright (1984-2010) Brendan McKay. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby given for use and/or distribution with the exception of sale for profit or application with nontrivial military significance. You must not remove this copyright notice, and you must document any changes that you make to this program. This software is subject to this copyright only, irrespective of any copyright attached to any package of which this is a part.

Just as there are socially conscious mutual funds, it also appears that there are socially conscious software licenses! Who knew?