A Quantum Semester



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I have not written anything in a long, long time, and I shall claim that it is just because I was trying to make this blog live up to its subtitle. But I cannot honestly say that, so I won’t.

Last time I wrote on this blog was during the summer when I had been reading cool things about the Game of Life and thought I would write on it here. I also promised to delve deeper into that particular topic, do some proofs and so on, but in doing so, I forgot what happens to me once the semester starts. And this semester has been the busiest in my memory, but at the same time, it has been very enjoyable.

The funny thing about this semester is that three of my courses have the word ‘quantum’ in the title. One of them is a course offered by the Computer Science department on Quantum Computing. Another is an advanced Physics course on Quantum Coherence and Entanglement. The third one is my second course on Quantum Mechanics.

The first two among them are among the most enjoyable courses I have ever done. I am actually doing the same thing (quantum theory) from three different perspectives and can see in front of my eyes how different approaches lead to different perspectives on the same problem.

Quantum computing also happens to be my first course with a term paper. I am supposed to pick up a field related to what we do in the course, read two papers in that field, understand them and present what we understand to the class. I chose as my field Quantum Shannon Theory, and I just spent a day writing the project proposal for the same. The field is a dream area for me. Early in my second year, I had attended a series of talks organised on the occasion of the birth centenary of Claude Shannon, who started out the field of Information Theory, and I was almost immediately hooked by the tremendous scope of the subject. One of my other long standing interests is Quantum Mechanics, and it is very cool to be doing both of them at the same time!

Speaking of Quantum Computing, in the beginning of the course, we did a lightning introduction to linear algebra, and I fell in love with it all over again. I just love the structure of linear algebra, and also that of the book I have been studying it from, Hoffman and Kunze. We start with a few definitions and then derive so much from that after we define something new and derive more, and the cycle continues. The more I progress through the book, I find more and more powerful techniques to do some of the same things that were first introduced very early on, and I find that amazing! It just reinforces the notion that I have lost something by not focusing on Math much during my studies so far, but at least I know now and can rectify in future.

My other fun course is also really cool so far. We have only been doing various kinds of correlation functions, but the promise that it holds has been really enticing so far. It also helps that the course is being taken by Prof Anand Jha, who is definitely one of the best professors I have studied under. We will also have to read and present a paper at some point in that course too, so I am looking forward to that.

Among all of these, I also found some time to learn some Automata Theory from a great course on Stanford Lagunita offered by Jeff Ullman, so I will probably be able to read the proof that the Game of Life is Turing complete in a few days from now. What’s more, I am also one of the leaders of Science Coffeehouse on campus, but I have lots to talk about related to that, so that is another post for another time!