@HPCpodcast: ‘Quantum in Pictures’ Author Bob Coecke

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The HPC community is a very intelligent bunch, as a rule, but a few segments of the industry call for an exceptional, Himalayan level of smarts. One of them is quantum. Conversing – or trying to converse – with a quantum person is for most of us a withering, futile and frustrating experience from which we emerge feeling strangely reduced.  Quantum people speak a language we’ve never heard and play a game we’ve never seen, yet we very much want to understand both. Quantum could change the world. But how?

The problem is that existence at the atomic level is unlike anything we know. As theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate Richard Feynman said in 1964 of the study of electrons, “Do not keep saying to yourself, if you can possibly avoid it, ‘But how can it be like that?’ because you will get ‘down the drain,’ into a blind alley from which nobody has escaped. Nobody knows how it can be like that.”

This is because electrons “…behave in their own inimitable way, which technically could be called a quantum mechanical way. They behave in a way that is like nothing that you have seen before. Your experience with things that you have seen before is incomplete. The behavior of things on a very tiny scale is simply different. An atom does not behave like a weight hanging on a spring and oscillating. Nor does it behave like a miniature representation of the solar system with little planets going around in orbits. Nor does it appear to be somewhat like a cloud or fog of some sort surrounding the nucleus. It behaves like nothing you have seen before.”

Into this opaque arena comes Bob Coecke, chief scientist at quantum company Quantinuum, who is co-author with Stefano Gogioso of the recently-released Quantum in Pictures: A New Way to Understand the Quantum World, which is intended to make quantum more accessible.

Along with his position at Quantinuum, Bob is distinguished visiting research chair at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, Emeritus Fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford University. He’s been a prominent member of the quantum community for decades and his work has been headlined by various media outlets, including Forbes, New Scientist, PhysicsWorld, ComputerWeekly. He’s also a musician and painter.

Bob Coecke

When Quantum in Pictures came out earlier this month we were intrigued by the book’s cover and its hilarious incongruity with quantum. We also admired the spirit of quantum enlightenment behind the book. We hope you enjoy our conversation with Bob.

We welcome your ideas for special topics and guest commentators. Feel free to contact Doug Black or Shahin Khan with your suggestions.