APS News

Newest Topical Group Holds Sessions at 2005 March Meeting

Among the many technical sessions at the 2005 March Meeting was an invited session and six contributed sessions organized by the Society’s newest Topical Group, Quantum Information, Concepts, and Computation (GQI). Topics ranged from quantum entanglement and entropy; quantum dots, gates and single photon devices; quantum computing; and SQUIDs.

The GQI’s invited session on recent progress in quantum physics and quantum information featured an impressive array of speakers. IBM’s Charles Bennett, a pioneer in the fields of quantum computing and quantum cryptography, presented recent results on quantum channel capacities. Michel Devoret of Yale University discussed his work on constructing superconducting quantum bits with Josephson junctions, while NIST’s Dietrich Leibfried gave an overview of his group’s work on constructing quantum computers with an array of ion traps. Markus Aspelmeyer of the University of Vienna described recent progress in realizing "one-way quantum computing" using entangled cluster states. And Wojciech Zurek of Los Alamos National Laboratory rounded out the session by discussing his own fundamental concept of "envariance."

Approved by the APS Council in April 2004, the GQI is dedicated to "bringing together a vertically integrated community of researchers" that spans a broad range of activity–from quantum information technology and computer science, to basic research in the conceptual foundations of quantum mechanics–and of "promoting future work that more strongly connects its basic and applied aspects."

According to Daniel Greenberger (City College of New York), one of the founders, the primary motivation for forming the group arose from a sense that scientists who work on foundational problems in quantum theory "have no natural home in the APS," despite the fact that there is a strong overlap with several divisions, including Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics, Computational Physics, and Laser Science. "If you are using a neutron interferometer to explore a fundamental problem in quantum theory, you don’t really have a natural audience in neutron physics," he explains. The same goes for researchers using advanced laser techniques to elucidate the finer points of Bell inequalities.

"It is meant to be a broadly inclusive home for researchers whose professional lives may have kicked off in various traditional disciplines, but who nonetheless share an over-arching interest in the foundations and ‘surprising implications’ of quantum mechanics," said Caltech’s Hideo Mabuchi, GQI’s acting chair.

Greenberger also feels the field needs an effective lobbying group to represent its interests to federal funding agencies, most notably the National Science Foundation. "Many young people are becoming interested in the field, but there are few opportunities for having their research funded," he said.

Part of the problem is that quantum theory suffers from the perception that it is a field for "old men," since the debate dates back to 1935 and the famous Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox. (That paper is still the most downloaded publication from the APS journal archives, 80 years after it was written.) But Greenberger points out that it is, in fact, a vibrant exciting field at the forefront of physics, using all the latest laboratory techniques, and spinning off the newly emerging fields of quantum cryptography and quantum computing.

Efforts are currently underway to increase membership in the topical group and to hold official elections. For the time being, the GQI is operating under the guidance of an inaugural advisory board, headed by Mabuchi. Founding members Greenberger and Anton Zeilinger (University of Vienna) are board members, as are Jonathan Dowling, Barry Sanders, H. Jeff Kimble, Rob Spekkens, Anthony Leggett, Paul Kwiat, David Bacon, Devoret, and Mark Kasevich.

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Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette
Staff Writer: Ernie Tretkoff