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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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Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar

You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

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