Seattle for QIPers

QIP 2017 is coming to Seattle, hosted by the QuArC group at Microsoft, January 16-20 (with tutorials on the 14th and 15th). If you have some spare moments, maybe you arrive early, or maybe you are planning for the afternoon off, here are some ideas for things to do around the wonderful city I call home.
Be a Tourist!

  • Take a trip up to the Seattle Center (approximately 1 mile walk from Hotel).  There you can take a ride to top of the Space Needle ($22), which has some great views when it is sunny (ha!).  Music or Star Trek fan?  Check out Paul Allen’s collection of toys and memorabilia Museum of Pop Culture ($30), which has two very geeky exhibits right now, Star Trek and Indie Game Revolution.  Or if you are secure in your ability to not knock over stuff worth more than it’s weight in gold, check out the Chihuly Garden and Glass ($22, combine with a trip to Space Needle for $36).  Kids and family in tow?  Can’t go wrong with the Pacific Science Center ($27.75 adults, $11.75 kids) and the Seattle Children’s Museum ($10.50).
  • Visit Pike’s Place Market (about 0.5 mile walk from Hotel).  See them toss fish!  Visit the original Starbucks (sssshhh it was actually the second).  Like your politics off the chart? Check out Left Bank Books which has a seriously eclectic collection of books.  While you’re at it, if you’re playing tourist, you might as well walk on down to the waterfront where you can take a ride on the Seattle Great Wheel ($13) or check out the Aquarium ($50 ouch) (we had a party there a few years back, yes we ate Sushi in front of the octopus.)
  • Architect buff on the cheap?  Check out the Seattle Central Library (a little over a half mile from Hotel).  Sculpture buff on the cheap?  Walk around the Olympic Sculpture Park (little over a mile from the Hotel).  These are in completely different directions from the Hotel.
  • Museums?  Seattle Art Museum has a nice collection ($25) but my favorite these days is the Museum of History and Industry (Little over 1 mile walk, $20).  The MoHaI is located in south Lake Union, a location that has been transformed dramatically in the last few years since Amazon relocated to the area.  Count the number of cranes!
  • So it turns out the Seattle you see today was built over the top of the Seattle that used to be, and, while I’ve never done it, everyone I know who has done it, loves the Seattle Underground Tour.  Note that if you combine this tour with reading about earthquakes in the PNW you might give yourself some anxiety issues.  Seattle is in the middle of boring a long tunnel under it’s downtown to replace the gigantic monstrosity of the viaduct, sadly I don’t think there are any tours of the tunnel boring machine, Big Bertha.

Be a Geek!

  • Ada’s Technical Books is in the Capital Hill Neighborhood (bus or Lyft).  It’s not as crazy as some university town bookstore, but has a good collection of non-standard science and tech books.
  • Elliot Bay Bookstore again in Capital Hill is no Powell’s but it’s still rather good.
  • Fantagraphics bookstore and gallery.  You’ll know if you want to go to this if you recognize the name.

See a Show!

Get Out and About!

  • We’ve a ton of snow right now.  Snoqualmie is closest, great for beginners or if you’re just craving a quick ski or board.  For the more serious, Baker, Crystal, and Stevens Pass are all recommended.  I like Crystal a bit more, on clear days the view of Mt. Rainier is spectacular.
  • Take a ferry over to Bainbridge Island.  This is one of my top recommendations in the summer, but even in the winter it’s a nice trip.  (Other summer recommendation is to rent a Kayak and kayak around Lake Union, but it’s too cold to do that this time of year.)
  • If you’re up for a nice stroll, head over to Discovery Park or take a walk on the Alki beach in West Seattle (both require a ride to get there from Hotel, though you could walk down and take the water taxi on weekdays.)  Closer by to the Hotel, head over to Myrtle Edwards Park.


  • Seattle is a city of neighborhoods, each of which, believes that they have their own style!  Each of these except Belltown or Downtown are a bus, cab, or rideshare away.  Really there is too much to cover here, but here are a few short notes:
    • Belltown: This is the neighborhood just north of downtown where the Hotel is located.  Used to be sketchy but now has lots of luxury condos.  Shorty’s is a dive with pinball and hot dogs.  People seem to love Tilikum Place Cafe though I have not been there.  If you want a traditional expensive steakhouse, El Gaucho is great, though I think the Metropolitan Grill in downtown is better (both pricey!)  Since this is a quantum conference, I would be remorse to not point out that Belltown is the site of Some Random Bar, which I believe has good crab nachos.  If you crave a sweet donut, Top Pot Donuts is literally just up the street from the hotel.
    • Fremont: Is still an eclectic neighborhood, though not quite as far out as it used to be.  It’s annual solstice parade is the only day it is legal to ride your bike nude in Seattle.   Tons of places to eat and drink here, I recommend Brouwers (great beer selection, frites), Revel (Korean fusion, no reservations), and Paseo (cuban sandwiches OMG delicious) but there are a ton more in the neighborhood.   Theo’s chocolate does factory tours and also supplies a great smell to the neighborhood (along with another smell from the nearby dispensaries!)  Also if you’re up this way you can see a huge troll under a bridge, a rocket ship, and a statue of Lenin (who sometimes gets dressed in drag).
    • Ballard: Originally a Scandinavian fishing community, these days it’s hip as Seattle hip gets.  Sunday year round farmer’s market.  When many people think of the Pacific Northwest they think of fish, but really I think where Seattle really shines is in shellfish.  The Walrus and the Carpenter is a great place to affirm this claim.
    • Capital Hill: East of downtown, Seattle’s most vibrant district.  Fancy restaurants: Altura, Poppy.
    • University District: Lots of cheap eats for UW students.  In the summer I recommend renting a kayak from Agua Verde, a Mexican restuarant/kayak rental joint
    • South Lake Union: Amazon land, totally transformed over the last few years. I’ve had good luck at re:public.  Shuffleboard at Brave Horse Tavern.

Morning Run
I’d probably head over to the Sculpture park and run up Myrtle Edwards Park: here is a mapmyrun route.
Enjoy Seattle, it’s a fun town!  I recommend, generally, shellfish, thai food, and coffee.  Also you can play the fun people guessing game: “software engineer or not” (advanced players can score points for Amazon or Microsoft sub-genres).  Also: if you don’t want to look like a tourist, leave the umbrella at home.  You know it rains more every year in New York city, right?


Congrats to OneBusAway, winners of the 2010 WTIA Industry Achievement Award for “best use of technology in the government, nonprofit or education sector”. OneBusAway was started by University of Washington students and provides real time access to transit information here in the Seattle area. I know it best through it’s iPhone app, which is by far my most regularly used app (sure I probably use email more, but the iPhone app I use every weekday nearly without exception.) Yeah, yeah I know you fancy European cities will scoff at our backward nature, but I will tell you that the iPhone app is great: it tells you whether your bus is early or late and…best of all I can use it to walk an extra block and catch a bus at a prior stop…thus allowing me some exercise as well as the chance to get a better seat on the bus (What’s up King County Metro bus drivers with your heavy feet? :)) If you’re a Seattlite who uses public transport, I highly recommend OneBusAway (there are also Android and phone apps.)

Seattle Signs

Not helpful:
In Seattle if a road bends ever so slightly you are on a new street, but the above is…confusing.

Broken Glass Everywhere. If it Ain't About Quantum Money, I Just Don't Care

Note the new location (updated 9/28/09)
The Optimizer is coming to town, which is always fun:

TIME: 1:30-2:30 pm, Tuesday, September 29, 2009
SPEAKER: Scott Aaronson (MIT)
Ever since there’s been money, there have been people trying to counterfeit it, and governments trying to stop them. In a remarkable 1969 manuscript, Stephen Wiesner raised the possibility of money whose authenticity would be guaranteed by the laws of quantum physics. However, Wiesner’s money can only be verified by the bank that printed
it — and the natural question of whether one can have secure quantum money that *anyone* can check has remained open for forty years. In this talk, I’ll tell you about progress on the question over the last year.
– I’ll show that no “public-key” quantum money scheme can have security based on quantum physics alone: like in most cryptography, one needs a computational hardness assumption.
– I’ll show that one can have quantum money that remains hard to counterfeit, even if a counterfeiter gains black-box access to a device for checking the money.
– I’ll describe a candidate quantum money scheme I proposed last spring, and how that scheme was broken a few weeks ago by myself, Farhi, Gosset, Hassidim, Kelner, Lutomirski, and Shor.
– I’ll describe a new quantum money scheme we propose in the same work. Our new scheme has the strange property that not even the bank can prepare the same bill twice.
Reference for the first two results: S. Aaronson, “Quantum copy-protection and quantum money,” in Proceedings of CCC’2009, The “AFGHKLS” paper should be posted to the arXiv soon.

The last line makes me ask: has anyone every written a paper with all of the letters of the alphabet for last names (and no duplicate uses!)

Unscientific in Seattle

Chris Mooney, former Scienceblogger and provocateur extraordinaire, will be in Seattle this Thursday talking about the book he co-authored with Sheril Kirshenbaum, “Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future.” Details:

Thursday, August 6 7:00 PM
University Bookstore
4326 University Way N.E.
Seattle, WA 98105

From all I’ve heard Chris is an excellent speaker so this should be a fun event.

Microsoft Extreme Computing Group

Dan Reed has a brief note up about a new group at Microsoft the extreme computing group (XCG) which includes among its subject areas quantum computing:

XCG was formed in June 2009 with the goal of developing radical new approaches to ultrascale and high-performance computing hardware and software. The group’s research activities include work in computer security, cryptography, operating system design, parallel programming models, cloud software, data center architectures, specialty hardware accelerators and quantum computing.

Also in the news here. Microsoft, of course, has long had a toe in quantum computing, with Microsoft station Q in Santa Barbara investigating topological quantum computing and related models. Hopefully this bodes well for continued Microsoft investing in that most extreme of computational models (okay computing with closed timelike curves is probably even more extreme!), quantum computing.

Campus Ad

In the University of Washington’s “The Daily” in the lost and found section:

FOUND – PANDA head, appears to be a part of a missing suit. Recovered near 45th and Memorial. presumably stolen by ill-advised sorority girls during their week-long, drunken stupor

Strip Malicious Mischief

Ah, the games people play:

A 23-year-old Tacoma man and an 18-year-old Lakewood woman are suspected of throwing rocks from a railroad trestle onto at least 14 vehicles traveling southbound on Interstate 5 early Monday.

Investigators told KOMO-TV that the couple was playing a stripping game that involved each of them shedding a layer of clothing for every headlight they managed to break.

Thoughts on Lazowska's Seattle Comments

Over at TechFlash there is an article about some words Ed Lazowska, professor extraordinaire here in the computer science & engineering department at UW, had for the Seattle tech scene (see also xconomy):

“It seems to me that the issue with this state is that we are one big happy family in which everybody is doing extremely well. Everyone’s college program is above average. And everyone’s company is above average. And everyone’s venture fund is above average. And if you go a little bit more above average than the next guy, then they get all Dirty Harry and whack you down. It is a state of Whack-a-Mole…. I worry that those who excel, and excel honestly, aren’t celebrated in this state.”


“We think of ourselves as being in the innovation big leagues, where in fact we are in the minors compared to those who are in the really big leagues like Boston and the Bay Area,” said Lazowska, who cited the recent bizjournals report showing that Seattle ranks fifth as a technology hub.

(though that study is whack. Washington D.C. at number 2? L.A. not in the top ten?)
Now I’m just an outsider to the tech scene (and nothing I say here should be construed as ever being endorsed, associated with, or even vaguely connected to my employer, the University of Washington), but I can think of at least one very good reason that Seattle is behind Boston and the Bay Area: its university system. Now, the University of Washington is a great university, our medical school is superb, and there are quite a few rather good departments across campus, but….
Continue reading “Thoughts on Lazowska's Seattle Comments”

SciBlogging: A Roundtable Discussion on Science Blogs

Wednesday, April 29, 6:30 p.m I’ll be participating in a panel discussion of science blogging sponsored by the Northwest Science Writers Association:

Join local science bloggers, including Alan Boyle from’s Cosmic Log, David Bacon the Quantum Pontiff, Sandra Porter of Biology in a Digital World, Julianne Dalcanton of Cosmic Variance, Eric Steig of Real Climate, and Keith Seinfeld from KPLU, for a lively discussion about the state of the art (or is it science?) of science blogs. If you are a sciblogger or like the idea, join NSWA at the UW Paul G. Allen Center in the Gates Commons (top floor) for this event. RSVP to mikeb (put an @ here) Free for members, $5 for non-members.

Come join us, it should be fun (and the view from the Gates Commons is worth the trip!)