What the Nobels Mean to Us
Inside Quantum Technology
In a week in which IBM used a visit from Joe Biden to tout a $20 billion investment in quantum technology in New York (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-10-06/ibm-to-unveil-20-billion-investment-as-biden-visits-n-y-campus) and Intel said it had made major progress in creating quantum chips (https://www.tomshardware.com/news/intel-claims-quantum-chip-production-milestone), it may be time to quiet our fear of coming quantum winter.
All good, but I suspect from the perspective of a few years hence the really big news from this week will turn out to be the Nobel Prize in Physics to be shared among three physicists for their work on quantum entanglement (https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/physics/2022/press-release/). The just announced prize winners for 2022 are Alain Aspect (France), John F. Clauser (USA) and Anton Zeilinger (Austria). In their careers, all three made an impact on the foundation of physics; traditionally the Rodney Dangerfield of physics. Foundations has finally got some respect thanks to the Nobel committee!
Philosophically, entanglement changes everything! Like it or not we apparently live in a world that looks more like what New Age philosophy teaches than what Einstein and Newton said it was. But I digress. From the perspective of quantum technology, the 2022 Nobel for physics validates what we are all doing here. Most of the news about this award has understandably been focused on physics, but the heading of the press release from the Nobel Prize committee cites technology specifically. It reads “Entangled states – from theory to technology.”
A Nobel for entanglement research cannot fail to garner more attention for quantum technology and it will help ward off the unwarranted criticism that quantum technology has received of late (think Scorpion). And two of the Nobel Laureates have not only made contributions to theoretical physics and philosophy of science, but also to the creation of the quantum technology sector.
This is most visible in the case of Aspect who is sometimes listed as a founder of the French quantum processor company PASQAL and sometimes with an official position as “Quantum Guru.” He is surely both. PASQAL is focusing on a neutral atom approach with the primary application being quantum simulation. However, it is Zeilinger, who could perhaps most easily claim the title “father of quantum technology,” for his work on quantum communication and quantum cryptography. He was the first person to quantum teleport an independent qubit and also the first person to demonstrate entanglement-based quantum. He was part of the research team that, a decade ago, demonstrated quantum teleportation over 144 km between two Canary Islands. Inside Quantum Technology has run entire well-attended conferences on quantum communications and quantum cybersecurity and it is fair to say that many of the products and opportunities that we discussed at these events can find their origins in Zeilinger’s work.
Obviously, this short account doesn’t really do justice to all the efforts and successes of Aspect, Clauser and Zeilinger. However, what can be said is that unlike many Nobel physics and chemistry prizes this one celebrates both a new way to look at the universe and the creation of an entirely new industry sector.