Archive for October, 2011

Aerial photo of the Mike & Ophelia Lazaridis Quantum-Nano Centre, by Phil Kaye

At first glance, I thought it was a horrible mistake — an architectural flaw of colossal proportions.

It appeared to be a long, deep crack in the concrete foundation of the Mike & Ophelia Lazaridis Quantum-Nano Centre, the future headquarters of the Institute for Quantum Computing and the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology.

Construction of the new facility, located smack-dab in the middle of the University of Waterloo campus, is nearing completion, and last week I was on a steel-toed-boots-and-hard-hat tour of the site with guests from the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

I’m no construction expert, but a long fissure in the foundation — barely wider than my thumb, but deeper than I could discern — seemed like an egregious boo-boo in a building specifically designed for highly sensitive quantum experiments.

Thankfully,  several construction experts were on hand, along with a few quantum scientists, who explained that the split foundation is a deliberate, and rather ingenious, construction feature.

It turns out the building has two separate foundations — one for the main part of the facility, and another  upon which sit the extra-sensitive scientific areas, such as the cutting-edge cleanroom/fabrication facility.

Because quantum experiments are so delicate to perturbation — remember, just having a peek at a quantum system will alter it — they must be extremely well isolated from their surroundings.  One clever way to achieve this: constructing laboratories upon separate foundations from the surrounding structure. Even if the overall facility shifts a micron in any direction (that’s a fraction of the width of a human hair), the experiments housed atop the secondary foundation won’t budge.

Which is all a long way of saying the new building is going to be really, really cool.  Check it out:


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Earlier this year, we here at QuantumFactory wrote an open letter to the good citizens of Wyoming, none of whom had ever visited the Institute for Quantum Computing’s website, according to Google Analytics. When we depicted visits to the IQC website on a map of the continental U.S., with darker areas representing a higher concentration of visitors, Wyoming appeared as a solitary white rectangle of unquantumness in the American midwest.

This distressed us.

Given the ever-increasing relevance and importance of quantum information science, we fretted that Wyomingites (Wyomingers? Wyomese?) might get left behind in the global quantum revolution.

Well, we are happy to report that we have made small inroads into the great state of Wyoming. An enterprising young student named Logan Wright, who spent the past summer immersed in research at IQC, recently attended a conference in Laramie, Wyoming.  Although the conference had nothing to do with quantum information science (it was about the decidedly non-quantum topic of asphalt), Logan proudly sported an IQC shirt during much of his stay, and spoke about quantum science whenever the opportunity arose.

That’s Logan pictured at right, the IQC logo proudly displayed above his breast pocket, standing in front of a monument to Abraham Lincoln situated at the highest elevation on the cross-country Lincoln Highway.

This, of course, is a baby step.  There’s still a long way to go before the people of Wyoming (of whom there aren’t terribly many, given that it’s the least populous state in the US) are well-versed in superconducting qubits, photonic parametric down-conversion and the like. But we are delighted to have made this introductory foray into Wyoming, and we hope the rectangular white void on our web traffic map will soon take on a lush green tone. Quantum computing in Wyoming? Wynot?



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Tensor Dispenser

A confession: until I met Jacob Biamonte, I had scarcely heard of “tensor network states.” To me, a “tensor network” sounded more like an exercise machine using elastic resistance.  Not even close!

Thankfully, Jacob is a patient and knowledgeable teacher on the subject.  Though he is based at the National University of Singapore’s Centre for Quantum Technologies, Jacob spent several weeks visiting IQC, during which he delivered a four-part lecture series about tensor network states.

Jacob acknowledges that the subject matter is tricky, and that his lecture series might seem a tad intense for a newcomer to the subject. So we recorded the introductory video below, in which he lays out the key themes and ideas of the series.

Once you feel ready to dive right in to the realm of tensor network states, Check out the full lecture series.  You can also find lecture notes and problem sets here.

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