Scott Aaronson is known for his down-to-earth views on the potential of quantum computation - basically it's not proven that it goes anywhere beyond the reach of classical computation. In a new cartoon the situation is artfully expressed and is both funny and informative.
OK it isn't ROFL funny, but it does raise a smile and it gives you something to thing about afterwards. The situation predicted is very true. The problem is that quantum computation is well, quantum and as everyone knows if you think you understand quantum anything you have just proved you don't. More seriously "quantum" when attached to any other set of words brings an air of mystery such that it is difficult to argue with any claims made, no matter how crazy they might sound. After all, if quantum mechanics can include tunneling, entanglement and interference, presumably anything is possible?!
Of course, anything isn't possible and there are rules and predictions of behavior that follow from these rules, but quantum computers and quantum computation is still often thrown in more like a plot device in a science fiction story. The problem is made worse by the fact that even people who think they know the foundations of quantum theory are easily confused by systems that involve many interacting particles.
To help with the confusion, or at the very least to draw attention to it, Scott Aaronson has "influenced" Zach Weinersmith of SMBC Comics to produce a nice parody of the "facts of life talk" that parents are supposed to have with their offspring.
Aaronson modestly explains:
"The basic premise—“The Talk”—was all Zach. I dutifully drafted some dialogue for him, which he then improved and illustrated. I.e., he did almost all the work."
In a nice example of quantum entanglement Weinersmith says:
"Scott did all of the real work, and I threw in some dirty jokes. So, hey, a pretty good deal all around."
So we already have a paradox - neither of them did any real work! Perhaps I could step up and take the credit, but no all I did was enjoy.
Try a few frames and if you get the point go to the SMBC website and read the rest:
... and later
Eventually we get to a single panel that sums up what quantum computing really is better than most popular articles and certainly better than most textbooks on the topic, but I am not going to reproduce it here. Go and check it out on the original site.
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