We've heard you snickering in the corner. Quantum computing is definitely a solid theory; scientists have been able to make a couple of electrons dance to the same proverbial tune for a while now. But what use is that? Critics say that quantum theory is mostly a mind exercise and will never be able to scale up for useful applications. Well, one MIT quantum scientist is sick of hearing that crap, and Scott Aaronson is putting his money where his mouth is in the form of a $100,000 prize to anyone able to demonstrate that "scalable quantum computing is impossible in the physical world."
Basically, you'd need to prove that quantum computers will never be able to do anything useful.
Critics have already jumped out of the woodwork to accuse Aaronson of the equivalent of trying to disprove Bigfoot, but he disagrees. "To me, though, that completely misses the point," he writes. "Whether Bigfoot exists is a question about the contingent history of evolution on Earth. By contrast, whether scalable quantum computing is possible is a question about the laws of physics."
Scientifically disproving the scalability of quantum computing would be a gargantuan task -- and it would also render Aaronson's ongoing work moot. Still, Aaronson isn't worried. (If he was, he wouldn't be ponying up $100k of his personal money.) Plus, he notes, if this inspires someone to scientifically cast quantum computing into the fires of Mordor, Aaronson's cash will be a drop in the bucket compared to the Nobel prize money the recipient would likely receive for one of the most important physics discoveries in a long time.
Aaronson's blog has all the details
, and he's been very responsive to answering questions from commenters. Or, if you want to brush up about recent happenings on the QC front, feel free to check out our articles about the "
World's First Programmable Quantum Photonic Chip
entangling ions with microwaves
breaking the laws of single-particle physics with ultrapure gallium arsenide semiconductor crystals
. Oh, and thanks to
Popular Science for pointing the contest out
Image credit: cacm.acm.org