Physicist Named MacArthur Fellow for Work on Quantum Computing

Alexei Kitaev's theoretical studies may lead the way to quantum computers that catch their own errors

3 min read

23 September 2008--Alexei Kitaev, a professor of theoretical physics and computer science at Caltech, was named a MacArthur Fellow today for his theoretical work on quantum computing systems. The five-year fellowship includes a stipend of US $500 000 with no strings attached, ”to provide recipients with the flexibility to pursue their creative activities,” according to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which determines the 25 yearly recipients.

At their core, quantum computers use the quantum properties of particles to manipulate and store data. Kitaev is quick to point out that such devices are still just theoretical, although experimentalists have managed to create qubits (the quantum equivalent of a classical bit) and simple quantum logic circuits in the lab. One of quantum computing's biggest hurdles is that nearly any interaction with outside forces can cause qubits to change state inadvertently, causing inaccurate computations. Physicists have devised error-correction codes to account for this problem, but using them greatly increases the number of qubits needed to perform the calculation you're interested in.

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