All entangled up: Quantum physics for the average nerd

I don’t think I’d be wrong in saying that quantum mechanics, and quantum computing specifically, is not an easy topic for people to wrap their heads around.

And I don’t mean for just non-science people, but even for those with Ph.Ds in equally complicated subject areas.

But this week I got one step closer to actually understanding the very basic elements of the theory.

In an attempt to get out more and take advantage of the myriad of things to do in Los Angeles, I got tickets to a free event at Caltech entitled “One Entangled Evening,” a lecture/presentation about Richard Feynman, quantum computing and the future.

Did I know anything about Feynman or quantum physics? No. So I did the only reasonable things I could think of: First, I recruited a friend who recently got his Ph.D. from Caltech to come with me. Second, I did some studying by reading the graphic novel biography on Feynman. Even if I hadn’t been going to the lecture, the book was quite interesting and worth a read, but I digress.

So how was the event?

Nerdy? Definitely. Cheesy? Of course. (They had a song and dance number with physics lyrics added to the tune of South Pacific’s “Some Enchanted Evening.”)

But it was an engaging evening. Feynman, who is considered a bit of a legend in physics circles, was feted by his daughter, Nobel winning professors and even a video from Bill Gates.

It was all very ‘inside baseball’ with most of the audience composed of Caltech faculty and donors. But I felt like I was being let in on a little secret about what the future might be. I got an animated lesson on Schrödinger’s Cat (animations of dead/not dead cats are surprisingly funny) and got a little taste of what sitting in a physics graduate class might feel like.

But more importantly, I got a lesson in what will likely be the way we solve the world’s problems in a few decades. Quantum computing is all the rage, and researchers are getting close to putting the theory into practice.

The best part of the night came as a surprise. In fact, I had been perusing the program beforehand and had scoffed at what I thought would be a poor attemptbit  at being cool at a physics lecture:

Boy was I wrong. The video sketch is funny, clever, VERY well written and just smart enough that you might understand quantum mechanics a little bit better after watching.

Or, at least, want to play some Quantum Chess.

Leave a Reply