I’m planning to be in Australia soon—in Melbourne January 4-10 for a friend’s wedding, then in Sydney January 10-11 to meet colleagues and give a talk. It will be my first trip down under for 12 years (and Dana’s first ever). If there’s interest, I might be able to do a Shtetl-Optimized meetup in Melbourne the evening of Friday the 4th (or the morning of Saturday the 5th), and/or another one in Sydney the evening of Thursday the 10th. Email me if you’d go, and then we’ll figure out details.

The National Quantum Initiative Act is now law. Seeing the photos of Trump signing it, I felt … well, whatever emotions you might imagine I felt.

Frank Verstraete asked me to announce that the University of Vienna is seeking a full professor in quantum algorithms; see here for details.

20 Responses to “Announcements”

  1. I Says:

    don’t have any sense of scale for this. Is $1 billlion a lot for quantum computing research over ten years? guess that its an encouraging show of support, but not flabergasting.

  2. Scott Says:

    I #1: I think that’s about right—I’d expect to see a somewhat noticeable enhancement to what’s already happening.

  3. Daniel Seita Says:

    Looking at the summary of the bill, it seems to be mostly a plan rather than much in the way of actual implementation. And in the event that we need more funds for this, I assume Congress could simply pass additional laws to provide more funding? It appears relatively non-controversial.

  4. James Gallagher Says:

    I #1

    It’s not that big a funding programme compared to the UK’s £315m (~$400m) over 5 years

    Our ambitions are big:

    The UK will establish a new National Quantum Computing Centre in the race to build the world’s first universal quantum computer

    I guess just a little quantum supremacy is small beer for the UK government – good on them!

    These are exciting times, like the historic Apollo programme to put man on the Moon – but I guess one difference is that we were pretty sure the Moon existed before trying to get there.

  5. William Hird Says:

    @James #4
    But doesn’t the “British Interpretation of quantum physics” say the moon doesn’t exist until someone tries to land on it 🙂

    I’m not concerned at all about what the U.S. government is spending on quantum research, there is plenty of private money being spent on it . Remember that the two greatest inventions of the 20th century, the transistor and the laser ( sorry all you Velcro enthusiasts) were developed by private corporations, Bell Labs (Ma Bell) and Hughes Aerospace, respectively.

  6. Greg Says:

    Can you make any details of the Sydney talk available?

  7. William Hird Says:

    @James #4

    Of course I’m well aware of the fact that most of the “intellectual heavy lifting” scientific research that enables great inventions like the laser and transistor to come into being comes mainly from academia which is mostly publicly funded. My argument about the private corporation input to scientific advancement should be taken as one of nuance.

  8. Scott Says:

    William #5: No, I think it would be more accurate to say that many of the great inventions of the 20th century were made at private labs that only existed because of a government-enforced telecommunications monopoly (in the case of Bell Labs), or a government-funded military-industrial complex—and that therefore enjoyed some degree of autonomy both from government and university bureaucracy and from short-term market pressures. And that if, like my friends Patrick Collison and Michael Nielsen, you think that innovation has slowed down, then any investigation into why should at least look at the breakdown of those sorts of hybrids in recent decades.

  9. Scott Says:

    Greg #6: I don’t think the details are set yet, but I’m happy to post a link once they are.

  10. Scott Says:

    Ok, while the plan for the talks isn’t fixed yet, I have some partial info: my and Dana’s talks will most likely be 2-4pm on Jan 11 in UTS Building 8. I’ll post a link when/if one is available (most likely after New Years).

  11. James Gallagher Says:

    William #5

    The development of the Laser is particularly relevant since that was an invention that could have been created many years earlier if the early theorists in QM had been a little more adventurous to pursue the practical consequences of the new science. Also, it was developed by people mainly motivated by pure theory, very few of the pioneers working on the first masers, for example, had any idea about how their invention would lead to such huge technological advancement and benefit for humankind in areas as diverse as medicine and communications. In the book How The Laser Happened Charles Townes explains how there was much resistance to supporting their work on masers, with senior physicists very sceptical that the device was even possible. Of course, once the first successful demonstrations were achieved, the funding exploded and the rest is history.

    Perhaps there are parallels in Quantum Computing, if it succeeds, huge parts of our future technological development could depend on its applications, especially as a quantum simulator of microscopic processes in many diverse ways that nobody has thought of yet.

  12. William Hird Says:

    @ Scott #8 & James #11

    Agree with you both, good points. I read something once where von Neuman was told about the invention of the laser and he said that it was impossible, couldn’t work. I would love to know his reasoning for making this claim, what theoretical reason he thought the laser was impossible. Anyone know more details about this story ?

  13. Ajit R. Jadhav Says:


    Some people go a very long distance, with family (fried-chicken-loving kids included), even if they know that upon their return, they will come back home through the same airport, the same one through which they had left, and the same one about which a little while ago, they had cribbed a bit about it (may be for emotional reasons other than the ones involving the airport design, and [actual] Capitalism, may be?).


    Anyway, the best,


  14. James Gallagher Says:

    William #15

    Maybe you’re referring to a previous post I made which quoted Charles Townes in his book mentioned above?

    Shortly after we built a second maser and showed that the frequency was indeed remarkably pure, I visited Denmark and saw Niels Bohr, the great physicist and pioneer in the development of quantum mechanics. As we were walking along the street together, he quite naturally asked what I was doing. I described the maser and its performance. “But that is not possible,” he exclaimed. I assured him it was. Similarly, at a cock­tail party in Princeton, New Jersey, the Hungarian mathematician John von Neumann asked what I was working on. After I told him about the maser and the purity of its frequency, he declared, “That can’t be right!” But it was, I replied, and told him it was already demonstrated.

    Von Neuman didn’t believe him for a whole 15 minutes at a party apparently.

    In about 15 minutes, he was back. “Yes, you’re right,” he snapped. Clearly, he had seen the point.

    But Von Neuman was faced with actual empirical evidence, and had to give in. Not really that humble a concession for him.

    It seems he was so mortified by this error on his part that he actually spent much time trying to design lasers before his untimely death

    The essential fact still seems to be that one must maintain a thermodynamic disequilibrium for a time t1 which is very long compared to the e-folding time t2 of some autocatalytic process that can be voluntarily induced to accelerate the collapse of this disequilibrium. In our present case, the autocatalytic agent is light—in the near infrared, i.e., near 18000 Å [1.8 microns]. There may be much bet­ter physical embodiments than such a mechanism. I have not gone into questions of actual use, on which I do have ideas which would be practical, if the whole scheme made sense….

    His idea was almost a laser, but he had neither tried to use the coherent properties of stimulated emission nor thought of a reflecting cavity. There also seems to have been no reply from Teller, and the whole idea dropped from view. Later, in 1963, after the laser was well established, von Neumann’s early thoughts and calculations were published; but by then von Neumann had died, and I never had an opportunity to explore with him his thoughts of 1953, about which he modestly kept quiet after we had the maser operating.

  15. William Hird Says:

    @James # 14
    Kind of you to post the link. Shows you that even the most brilliant intellects are not always the most open minded ones.

  16. William Gasarch Says:

    If one believes that quantum computing is important (and I do) then is there any downside to the National Quantum Initative act? I have a few… concerns.
    1) Will there be less funding in other parts of CS or Physics because of this bill?
    2) Will this encourage people to go into quantum just for the money. If they are good this is not a problem. So the concern really is- will this lead to some bad and overhyped research?
    3) Since the grant is motivated partially by trying to beat China in the Quantum game will this hamper collaboration with China? with other countries?
    4) Philosophically I would prefer that the gov funds X based on its scientific merits, not on the grounds that our country is under threat. But perhaps I should not be so idealistic.

  17. Ben J Says:

    Hi Scott

    I’m very keen to attend your talk if I can duck out of work, and hoping there will be some sort of Sydney meet up. While you will likely have plenty of suggestions from the university staff (or even university rooms to use) for meetup venues, if not there are plenty of appropriate pubs near that UTS campus.

    Looking forward to having you in sunny Sydney…

  18. Mitchell Porter Says:

    No prospect of making it to Brisbane this time?

  19. Scott Says:

    Update: By popular request, here is the logistical information, as well as titles and abstracts, for the talks that Dana and I will be giving this Friday afternoon at the University of Technology Sydney.

  20. Adam K Says:

    Hi Scott,

    Are you still planning on any sort of meetup in Sydney the evening of the 11th? I won’t be able to get out of work to attend the talk, but would be interested in meeting up after.