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Europe Will Spend €1 Billion to Turn Quantum Physics Into Quantum Technology

A 10-year-long megaproject will go beyond quantum computing and cryptography to advance other emerging technologies

3 min read
Europe Will Spend €1 Billion to Turn Quantum Physics Into Quantum Technology
Cool Quantum Tech: This dilution refrigerator can cool quantum dots to less than 5 millikelvins for experiments in quantum computing.
Photo: Ernst de Groot

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.

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This photo shows a man holding a silver sphere that is about the size of a bowling ball. A seated women stares at the ball. Behind her, others wait their turns.

People queue up to have their irises scanned at an outdoor sign-up event for Worldcoin in Indonesia.

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In a college classroom in the Indian city of Bangalore last August, Moiz Ahmed held up a volleyball-size chrome globe with a glass-covered opening at its center. Ahmed explained to the students that if they had their irises scanned with the device, known as the Orb, they would be rewarded with 25 Worldcoins, a soon-to-be released cryptocurrency. The scan, he said, was to make sure they hadn’t signed up before. That’s because Worldcoin, the company behind the project, wants to create the most widely and evenly distributed cryptocurrency ever by giving every person on the planet the same small allocation of coins.

Some listeners were enthusiastic, considering the meteoric rise in value that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin since they launched. “I found it to be a very unique opportunity,” said Diksha Rustagi. “You can probably earn a lot from Worldcoin in the future.” Others were more cautious, including a woman who goes by Chaitra R, who hung at the back of the classroom as her fellow students signed up. “I have a lot of doubts,” she said. “We would like to know how it’s going to help us.”

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