Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students

Quantum Information: Visions and Emerging Technologies

PHYSICS 14N

In a classical computer, information is encoded in bits. Quantum mechanics opens new possibilities for information processing with “qubits.” Qubits offer the potential for exponentially enhancing the speed of computations, and for encrypting information so securely that would-be eavesdroppers are thwarted by the laws of physics. In this seminar, we will develop both an intuition and a rigorous mathematical framework for understanding the remarkable behavior of qubits, through a combination of simple optics experiments, pencil-and-paper algebra, and computer simulations. We will discover how the state of a quantum system is altered by the process of measuring it, and derive a fundamental consequence: the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, which limits our ability to precisely measure forces, distances, and time.

Ultimately, what sets quantum information apart from its classical counterpart is that it can be encoded non-locally, woven into correlations among multiple qubits in a phenomenon known as entanglement. We will discuss paradigms for harnessing entanglement to solve hitherto intractable computational problems or to push the precision of sensors to their fundamental quantum mechanical limits. We will also examine challenges that physicists and engineers are tackling in the laboratory today to enable the quantum technologies of the future.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Monika Schleier-Smith

Monika Schleier-Smith is an assistant professor in the Department of Physics. She has been fascinated by quantum uncertainty since first encountering the concept in high-school chemistry class. To gain a deeper understanding, she shifted her focus towards physics and mathematics in college at Harvard. In her Ph.D. research at MIT, she began manipulating quantum uncertainty in the laboratory to improve the precision of atomic clocks. At Stanford, Professor Schleier-Smith’s research group uses laser-cooled atoms as model systems for studying many-body quantum mechanics. Applications range from advancing understanding of materials whose properties are governed by the behavior of many interacting electrons to engineering sensors that can reach the ultimate limits of precision allowed by the laws of physics.