The 2,172nd Meeting of the Society

February 6, 2004

The Rabi Quantum Computer

A Venture in Philosophy

Rudolph A. Krutar

George Mason University

About the Lecture

Thomas Carlysle once wrote: “Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.” Totally ignoring that advice, I set about to examine how a Quantum Computer (QC) might eventually be exploited — from a Computer Science point of view. (A QC uses strange but real effects in Quantum Mechanics to explore many possibilities at the same time with the same hardware.) There are currently just four known QC algorithms. The possibilities are staggering, but are not likely to be realized by attending only to what lies clearly at hand. Yes, we might be able to factor large numbers, search databases in fewer steps, evaluate simple global properties of arbitrary predicates, and simulate quantum systems; but we might also be able to factor complicated problems, search databases of large images and sounds, evaluate interesting properties of complicated functions, and simulate sound and weather systems. No one currently has any idea how to do anything that complicated on a QC. We need therefore to focus on what has to be done to liberate the imaginations of students everywhere, so they can rework the foundations of their fields to exploit the exponential potential of QCs. The philosophical ramifications are awesome.

About the Speaker

Rudolph Krutar received a B.S. in mathematics in 1966, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science in 1976, both from Carnegie-Mellon University. In the early 1970's he spent one year at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences of New York University and three years at the University of Utah. He is retired from the Naval Research Laboratory after 24 years of service, including one year on sabbatical at North Carolina State University studying how quantum computers would be programmed, once they became available. He is currently preparing to teach a Computer Science course at George Mason University on Quantum Computer Programming in spring 2004, and a long-term member of Toastmasters International.