Perimeter Institute's Third Spring Lecture a Dazzling Success.


The third in the series of the spring Perimeter Institute lecture series on big screen at the Museum took place on Wednesday April 16.

Pictured Top Row L to R Bob MacDonald, Chris Fuchs. Middle Row Sir Anthony Liggett and Leonard Susskind.  Bottom row Seth Lloyd


It was an amazingly well put together panel with moderator Bob MacDonald of Quirks and Quarks.  It featured 3 PhD theoretical physicists and a PhD Engineer involved in Quantum Computing.  It was a tour de force of combined mental powers.  Leading the way was Sir Anthony Liggett Nobel Prize Winner.

The lectures are very well produced combining the technology of Rogers and the setting with a large live audience.  It's perfect to see them at the Museum on their Giant Screen.

The word "quantum" comes from the Latin word which means "what quantity". In quantum mechanics, it refers to a discrete unit that quantum theory assigns to certain physical quantities, such as the energy of an atom at rest . The discovery that waves have discrete energy packets (called quanta) that behave in a manner similar to particles led to the branch of physics that deals with atomic and subatomic systems which we today call quantum mechanics.

The lectures subject was Quantum Information and what the audience learned defied our ordinary views of the world we live in and our everyday life.  What follows are the big ideas that were brought forward:

Big Idea 1

Everything is information.  Information is not just what's in a book, on the Internet or in our mind.  The entire universe is information including you.

Big Idea 2

The Quantum State ... adheres to laws that are not the same or do not appear to be the same as our normal day to day world.  The rules of physics seem to change as we get very large or very small.  In our human world we get used to the way things work, but is this the state of the real world? Are the Quantum State's laws of physics inherent, but still unknown to us in our world view and the larger universe?


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Big Idea 3

Information is in some strange way proportional to the two dimensional surface area that contains it.  As a hologram captures and can faithfully reproduce in three dimensions a picture, so to does information behave in a like manner. 

A human being is information in the classical sense.  It is organized in a very specific way.  Again the information in a human is proportional to the surface area and not the volume.  The same holds true for a black hole

Big Idea 4

A human and the universe can be thought of as a computer program that is executing to some end, but what end nobody at present can predict.  (for comical look at this see our article on the number 42)  This brings up conjecture on the end of the universe.  What does that mean?

Big Idea 5

If two or more Quantum Particles are measured their state is random.  For example, if the spin of a Quantum Particle is measured it can be as likely to be in the up state as the down state.  They only take on that state when measured, but are random in nature.

There are particles that are called entangled.  The name implies that they are related to each other.  In the Quantum World, they can be apart an indeterminate distance.  This accounts for the amazing characteristic of Quantum Mechanics and Information theory known as teleportation.  It's not quite like the "Beam me up Scottie" of Star Trek, but amazing still.

Big Idea 6

Information can be 'quantified' in such a way that great hope abounds for a Quantum Computer, which will transfer information at the speed of Light.  This may lead to a Quantum Internet.

Big Idea 7

Because of the way Quantum Information transfer works, it is possible to theorize a perfectly safe encryption of data because both parties Alice and Bob will know, if anyone else has looked at their transmission.  This is particularly vital in public key encryption where the key is transmitted first as it is in Internet transactions.

An important and unique property of quantum cryptography is the ability of the two communicating users to detect the presence of any third party trying to gain knowledge of the key. This results from a fundamental part of quantum mechanics which is the process of measuring a quantum system in general disturbs the system and will be known by Alice and Bob.


Brought to you by the Bruce County Museum and the Perimeter Institute. Special thanks to Nancy White and volunteer organizer Wayne MacDonald.  Courtesy of John Matlock of the Perimeter Institute