QIP wrap-up

*** 13/1/29 update: From successful rump session talk to 15-page (well, ok, 7 of which are taken up by a sample factored prime number) arXiv paper in no time: see arXiv:1301.7007 for a paper version of John Smolin’s talk I referred to below ***

Well, time flies: the 16th workshop on Quantum Information Processing has ended already; I am writing this from my PEK-YYZ-BOS flight. (Via: Alaska. On the way in we flew the other way round, over the north of Europe, almost touching the North Pole. The two routes are roughly equivalent distant-wise, and the choice is made depending on the day’s winds.) No Wi-Fi up here (probably this will be posted from the Toronto airport), but at least a plug for my laptop: thank Air Canada for the wrap-up (not to mention the predictably uncomfortable seat and expansive neighbor that are conspiring to prevent me from taking a much needed nap).

For an update on the science, I’ll refer you directly to the QIP website: the efficient Tsinghua crew has already put most presenters’ slides online, and with some luck videos will follow shortly. I can recommend many of the plenary lectures: some of the highlights were Ronald de Wolf’s crystal-clear exposition of his (and co-authors’) approach to proving lower bounds on extended formulations through communication complexity arguments; Stephen Jordan’s presentation on quantum algorithms for calculating scattering amplitudes in quantum field theory (I could follow the first 30 out of 50 minutes, which given my record on related topics I consider a success both for him and for me); Fernando Brandao’s nice sharing of intuition on the relation between decay of correlations and area laws for entanglement in one-dimensional many-body systems.

Another highlight of the week was, of course, the Beijing food. If you think you don’t like Chinese food (sweet&sour pork anyone?) or if you think you like it but have never been to China, come on over: you’ll be stunned. This is my second time here and I had an idea what to expect, but the diversity of the Chinese cuisine (or is there such a thing as a “Chinese” cuisine?) amazed me once more. As in many places though the best food is found in the street, and I found my favorite breakfast place conveniently located just across the corner from the hotel. (I can’t say the fact that it beat the 6:30am opening time of the hotel’s buffet breakfast didn’t help make it popular with my jet-lagged stomach.)

Egg pancake, Beijing-style

There the early morning crowd gathers around a few push-carts to eat a sort of breakfast pancake that is made in the following interesting way (anyone can tell me the name of the thing? **update** apparently it’s called 煎餅). First, spread the pancake dough on the hot stone (a non-stick pan will do). Immediately break an egg and quickly spread it on the dough together with some chopped chives and onion. Before the egg is cooked, flip. Brush the new side up with some spicy brown sauce of your choice, and lay upon it some giant cracker (of the size of the pancake), that you quickly brake up in medium-sized pieces. Finally, fold the pancake around the chopped cracker, and serve steaming hot in the cold morning air. The result: a brilliant combination of fried egg&chives on the outside, soft, warm pancake dough in the middle, and crispy, spicy cracker on the inside…delicious!

The next natural step after my 60-cent full-meal breakfast-pancake is, of course, the 3$ Starbucks black coffee…(obviously, the hotel’s buffet breakfast is not open yet). Indeed, just as in India, Singapore or (for all I know) much of Asia, food prices vary wildly and it’s quite easy to get a full noodle soup (with beef!) for a dollar in the street, followed by a creamy-spongy green tea-flavored slice of cake for three times that price in the fancy bakery right next door.

All in all, putting the smog aside it was an excellent week, with a good banquet (although I won’t comment on the Kung-Fu acrobats) and fun rump session (the highlight of which was clearly John Smolin’s demonstration of an implementation of Shor’s factoring algorithm using not 5, not 3, not one-and-a-half, but *0* qubits — he did need a *classical* coin — to factor various numbers, including the Smolin2000, in front of a bedazzled audience). As probably everyone knows, QIP 2014 will be in Barcelona, and the location of QIP 2015 will soon be decided between Calgary and Sydney (tough decision…the popular vote has already spoken; let’s see what the all-powerful steering committee decides).

Now, Air Canada finally thought it good to turn off the lights (not without letting us know that they’d wake us up in five hours for some hot noodles, and again five hours later for a nice hot breakfast at our arrival in Toronto at 6pm local time — just to help us get into the mood of the day), and I’m signing off as well.

About Thomas

I am a professor in the department of Computing and Mathematical Sciences (CMS) at the California Institute of Technology, where I am also a member of the Institute for Quantum Information and Matter (IQIM). My research is in quantum complexity theory and cryptography.
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1 Response to QIP wrap-up

  1. Guillaume says:

    I am already attempting to cook the egg-pancake.

    Great post, with insights for math geeks as well as succulent stories for the rest of the world

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