Department colloquium - Charles Bennett

Title: Forging the culture of quantum information science.

Speaker: Charles Bennett, IBM Research

Abstract: Physicists, mathematicians and engineers, guided by what has worked well in their respective disciplines, have historically developed different scientific tastes, different notions of what constitutes an interesting, well-posed problem or an adequate solution. While this has led to some frustrating misunderstandings, it has invigorated the theory of communication and computation, enabling it to outgrow its brash beginnings with Turing, Shannon and von Neumann, and develop a coherent scientific taste of its own, adopting ideas from thermodynamics and quantum mechanics that physicists had mistakenly thought belonged solely to their field, to better formalize the core concepts of communication and computation.

The history of quantum information shows how wrong ideas can sometimes stimulate scientific progress more efficiently than correct ones, while the history of thermodynamics and information shows how good ideas can be discovered, forgotten and then rediscovered.