Archive

The Art of Discovery, As Seen by a Physicist

The sci­en­tif­ic method was per­fect­ed in the cru­cible of nat­ur­al sci­ence, and physics in par­tic­u­lar. And an old pro­fes­sor of mine once told me that a good the­o­ret­i­cal physi­cist is intrin­si­cal­ly a lazy per­son. And so these heuris­tics of ignor­ing super­flu­ous detail, sim­pli­fy­ing the prob­lem to its barest essen­tials, maybe even mak­ing a car­i­ca­ture out of it, solv­ing that sim­pler prob­lem. If you can’t solve that sim­pler prob­lem, solve an even sim­pler prob­lem. This actu­al­ly works in physics. Because the uni­verse is intrin­si­cal­ly a lazy place.

Towards a Quantum Computer

From vast data cen­ters to mobile phones, the pow­er of com­put­ers con­tin­ues to trans­form our lives. But there are some prob­lems across arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, in the design of new mate­ri­als, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, and clean ener­gy devices that they will sim­ply nev­er solve. So even if we turned our entire plan­et into a giant super­com­put­er we wouldn’t be able to solve these and many oth­er impor­tant prob­lems. The good news is that if we could build a com­put­ing device based on fun­da­men­tal quan­tum prin­ci­ples, we could.