You know you have arrived when you have your own day. And for quantum, that day is today: April 14.
World Quantum Day, announced last year and now marking its first global celebration, aims to advance the general public’s awareness and understanding of quantum science and technology.
Conceived by quantum scientists in more than 65 countries, the initiative encourages any and all in the quantum space — from engineers to historians to artists — to host talks, lab tours, debates, and other outreach activities to get the public enthused about topics such as how quantum science helps us understand nature and how it can lead to revolutionary innovations that transform how we live.
That’s no easy exercise. Quantum concepts are difficult to grasp, and the real-world applications — developing drugs faster, finding better renewable energy sources — are still largely theoretical.
But with technology rapidly advancing, investment increasing, and governments worldwide launching national initiatives to stay on the cutting edge, it’s time for the masses to start paying attention.
World Quantum Day is celebrated on April 14 in homage to 4.14, the rounded first digits of Planck’s constant, which, the official site for World Quantum Day explains, is “4.135667696×10−15 eV.s = 0,000 000 000 000 004 135667696 electronvolt second, a product of energy and time that is the fundamental constant governing quantum physics,” and is used for such fundamentals as defining the kilogram.
You don’t have to understand that to appreciate the promise of emerging uses of quantum technology. In the spirit of making quantum approachable, Duality asked its Cohort 1 startups — whose interactions with investors and industry have made them well-versed in translating quantum concepts for a non-physicist audience — to bring it back to basics.
Q: How would you describe quantum, and what your startup does, to your grandparents?
Super.tech: “A quantum computer would run important calculations millions of times faster than every other computer. We make software that enables such a quantum computer to be reliable and useful.”
qBraid: “The rules of quantum govern things at the microscopic scale. Quantum is being used to build computers that will be much more powerful than today’s computers. qBraid is a platform that provides users the easiest access to these new computers.”
QuantCad: “Quantum technologies use a hidden dance of microscopic matter to sense tiny fields or efficiently process information. This dance is delicate and susceptible to noise; QuantCAD LLC uses simulation to help reduce quantum noise and allow the dance to continue uninterrupted.”
Great Lakes Crystal Technologies: “We put special additives such as nitrogen-vacancy pairs in our diamonds, like cinnamon in apple pie, which makes them delicious in the eyes of quantum technologists.”
Q: Who is your favorite quantum scientist, and why?
Super.tech: “My co-founder, Professor Fred Chong! Fred pioneered software techniques and architectures that multiply the efficiency of quantum hardware.”
qBraid: “Richard Feynman is my favorite scientist because he was very good at conveying the joy of figuring things out. This helped me set my internal reward system based on the pleasure I got from finding new things.”
QuantCad: “Charlie Bennett (IBM): The earliest quantum algorithms are essentially ‘thought experiments.’ Bennett proposed novel ways to look at information that led to quantum teleportation.”
Quantopticon: “Feynman is our favourite quantum scientist, because his path integral interpretation of quantum mechanics (which employs trajectories of particles) is very intuitive.”
Great Lakes Crystal Technologies: “University of Maryland Professor Ronald Walsworth, because he helped me learn so much so quickly with his awesome webinars on quantum diamonds.”
Q: What is your favorite quantum term or symbol, and what does it mean?
qBraid: “’Quantum Braiding.’ It is a fascinating concept where exotic quantum particles are used as qubits, and their braiding leads to operations with which you can calculate things.”
QuantCad: “’hbar’ – that’s the quantum unit and the foundation of everything else. Also, ‘entanglement’ because it reminds us that much can be connected in both expected and unexpected ways.”
Quantopticon: “‘h bar’ is the coolest quantum symbol in our opinion, as it is the constant of quantisation. And it also makes for a great name for a drinks venue!”
Great Lakes Crystal Technologies: “I love ‘bras’ and ‘kets,’ which are used individually to denote quantum states and are combined to calculate quantum mechanical probabilities to transition between those two states in the presence of a field or perturbation.”