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  • Writer's pictureDavid Mitlyng

Weekly Takeaways: World Quantum Day 2023 Edition

Theme of the Week

Happy World Quantum Day! Two days ago we celebrated Yuri's Night by looking at the advances in the space industry since 1961. Today we celebrate World Quantum Day, designated to promote "public awareness and understanding of quantum science and technology around the world." April 14 isn't the anniversary of a major event, but a fun reference to the first digits of Planck’s constant (4.14 ×10−15 electronvolt seconds), the same way 3/14 is "Pi Day". There isn't a major anniversary to celebrate because there was no "first human in space" type of event to memorialize; quantum mechanics was developed through a combination of research, papers, thought and lab experiments, and rigorous debate over the last century. A lot of the early concepts were initially met with skepticism, but through this process, we have reached the point where we are manipulating the quantum properties of particles for practical and amazing applications. We are now in the midst of the Second Quantum Revolution. Quantum Technologies All quantum technologies leverage quantum properties and can be broken into three main branches:

  • Quantum Computing – a new (but fundamentally different) type of computer that leverages the quantum properties of particles to create qubits that could solve previously intractable problems.

  • Quantum Sensing (also sometimes referred to as Quantum Metrology) – uses the quantum properties of particles for very stable clocks and sensitive inertial, electromagnetic, gravity, and magnetic field sensors.

  • Quantum Communications (also sometimes referred to as Quantum Networking) – leverage the quantum properties of photons (particles of light) for applications like quantum random number generation (useful for cryptography), quantum key distribution (the secure distribution of encryption keys), and Xairos’ focus: quantum time transfer (secure and accurate timing for PNT and networking applications).

The Quantum Arms Race The incredible applications enabled by quantum technologies has created a sort of global quantum arms race, with $30B of sovereign funding in quantum research (according to QURECA) in 2022 across the globe:

The Quantum Divide The downside of this development: the growing quantum divide between the quantum haves (the 17 countries that are investing in quantum research) from the have-nots (everyone else). The World Economic Forum (WEF) believes that "quantum technology will exponentially accelerate the Fourth Industrial Revolution," and has raised calls for greater cooperation in quantum research between countries. And the Nobel Prize goes to... ...Alain Aspect, John F. Clauser and Anton Zeilinger, who were jointly award the 2022 Nobel Prize for their groundbreaking “experiments utilizing entangled photons to resolve a long-standing debate in the early history of quantum mechanics." That debate: the famous "spooky action at a distance" question that was settled with brilliant experiments that demonstrated Bell's inequality. Entanglement as a consequence of quantum mechanics was pointed out and elaborated on by Albert Einstein and colleagues in the famous 1935 EPR paper. But Einstein found the idea of nonlocal entanglement, the so-called “spooky action at a distance”, deeply problematic since, while it doesn't directly violate relativity, it certainly violates the spirit of local influences and causes at the conceptual heart of relativity. Because of this Einstein favored the idea that a local hidden variable was at work such that quantum mechanics was an incomplete description of reality resulting from an averaging over these local hidden variables. Nearly 30 years later, the physicist John Stewart Bell derived a mathematical relation, known as the Bell inequality, that demonstrated that any such local hidden variable theory could not reproduce all of the predictions of quantum mechanics. Thus, Bell's theorem said it was possible in principle to experimentally test if the actual world corresponds to the predictions of quantum mechanics or of some deeper theory that uses local, hidden variables. What seemed to be a philosophical question was now potentially an experimental one. However, "Bell’s inequality, while massively significant as a theoretical construct, was not at first of much use experimentally; the result itself of a thought experiment, it couldn’t be squared with practical detector technology. The three 2022 physics laureates found ways to circumvent those difficulties, and to advance studies of entanglement firmly into the realm of experimental science." It is important to note that all of the progress that has been made in quantum information science and quantum technologies owes a huge debt to all of these pioneers that dared to seriously ask such a fundamental question about reality, and who were not dissuaded by accusations of the worthlessness of their research by many of their influential contemporaries. Want to Learn More? To learn more about:

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