Gerald Gabrielse prepares to replace a cryogenic SQUID - a superconducting quantum interference device - in his lab. [Credit: Alyssa Schukar for Nature]
It’s possible that no one knows the electron as well as physicist Gerald Gabrielse. He once held one in a trap for ten months to measure the size of its internal magnet. When it disappeared, he searched for two days before accepting that it was gone. “You get kind of fond of your particles after a while,” he says.
A graphic representation of the 51 atoms, or qubits, in the new quantum simulator.
[Image credit: Christine Daniloff/MIT]
Programming a computer is generally a fairly arduous process, involving hours of coding, not to mention the laborious work of debugging, testing, and documenting to make sure it works properly.
But for a team of physicists from the Harvard-MIT Center for Ultracold Atoms and the California Institute of Technology, things are actually much tougher.
In 1985, when Carl Sagan was writing the novel Contact, he needed to quickly transport his protagonist Dr. Ellie Arroway from Earth to the star Vega. He had her enter a black hole and exit light-years away, but he didn’t know if this made any sense. The Cornell University astrophysicist and television star consulted his friend Kip Thorne, a black hole expert at the California Institute of Technology (who won a Nobel Prize earlier this month).
An article in the November-December 2017 issue of American Scientist on pictorial mathematical languages features the Quon Language created by Harvard mathematicians Zhengwei Liu, Alex Wozniakowski, and Arthur M. Jaffe. The Quon project includes the study of two-dimensional, three-dimensional, and higher-dimensional languages. "This pictorial language for mathematics can give you insights and a way of thinking that you don’t see in the usual, algebraic way of approaching mathematics," says Jaffe.
Fig. 2. Inverse design of vegetable, animal, and mineral surfaces.*
Nature has a way of making complex shapes from a set of simple growth rules. The curve of a petal, the swoop of a branch, even the contours of our face are shaped by these processes. What if we could unlock those rules and reverse engineer nature's ability to grow an infinitely diverse array of shapes?