If you're not a physicist, the concept of "quantum" will likely confuse you, or simply put you off. But even for experts, the quantum world can be complex. Luckily, in a world where for nearly every challenge there's a bespoke robot ready to help, an AI now makes it easier to navigate quantum systems too.
European quantum physicists have done some amazing things over the past few decades: sent single photons to Earth orbit and back, created quantum bits that will be at the heart of computers that can crack today's encryption, and "teleported" the quantum states of photons, electrons, and atoms. But they've had less success at turning the science into technology. At least that's the feeling of some 3,400 scientists who signed the "Quantum Manifesto," which calls for a big European project to support and coordinate quantum-tech R&D. The European Commission heard them, and answered in May with a 1 billion, 10-year-long megaproject called the Quantum Technology Flagship, to begin in 2018. "Europe had two choices: either band together and compete, or forget the whole thing and let others capitalize on research done in Europe," says Anton Zeilinger, a physicist at the University of Vienna who did breakthrough work in quantum teleportation, which would be key to a future Internet secured by quantum physics.
This book is a whirlwind survey of more speculative topics– getting well beyond "normal" low-energy quantum physics to talk about black holes and that sort of thing– wrapped up in a personal narrative. This gets into some heavy ideas, but Gefter's voice and enthusiasm for the topic are charming enough to carry it off.
Predicting the future is easy, if you are a physicist. Break a glass, and you can boldly assert that it will fall into a number of shards, assuming you know the initial conditions. Knowing the past is more difficult – you need to store much more information to piece a pile of broken glass back together. This "causal asymmetry" makes it easier to determine cause and effect and thus place events in order. But it doesn't exist in the quantum world, say Mile Gu at Nanyang …