Monday, November 16, 2015

Is the word Quantum being used properly by civilians? Understood by them? You know the answer.

I've seen the word `civilians' expanded in use from non-military to non-X for some X. Not sure I've ever seen `civilians' mean `people who don't do math stuff' until the title of todays post. Well, there is a first time for everything.

 I've blogged in the past about the use of the word Quantum (here) . The phrase Quantum Leap  means a BIG leap, where as Quantum stuff is small. Though, to be fair, the discovery (invention?) of Quantum Mechanics was a big leap. So maybe that IS proper use. The James Bond movie Quantum of Solace uses Quantum to mean small, the ONLY time I've seen Quantum used to mean small, so Kudos to the title of an absolutely awful movie. Commenters on my prior blog on the subject pointed out that the original meaning of
quantum was quantity or amount without regard to size of discreteness. I think using it that way now would be very rare.

I came across a theatre called Quantum Theatre. What is Quantum Theatre?  The following are actual quotes from their website.

Quantum artists mine all  kinds of non-traditional spaces for the sensory possibilities they offer when combined with creative design.

 We find it meaningful to place the audience and performer together, the moving parts inside the works.

 We want to move people with our experiements.

The shows run the gamut from those you thought you knew but now experience like never before, to shows that didn’t exist until their elements mixed in our laboratory.

 I came across this article in a place it didn't belong-- in the middle of an article about Google and NASA trying to build a quantum computer (see here.) This news might be exciting but the article was full of mistakes and bad-signs so I'm not to excited about it. Plus the reference to Quantum Theatre is just odd.

The BEST use of the word quantum that I've heard recently was in the episode The Ricks must be crazy of the excellent TV show Ricky and Morty:

The car is broken

Morty (a 14 year old): W-Whats wrong Rick? Is it the Quantum carburetor or something?

Rick (his grandfather, a brilliant scientist): Quantum carburetor? You can't just add a Sci-fi word to a car word and hope it means something.
W-what's wrong, Rick? Is it the quantum carburetor or something?

Read more at:
W-what's wrong, Rick? Is it the quantum carburetor or something?

Read more at:


  1. +1 for the Rick and Morty reference

  2. My favorite quote is from the 1956 movie Forbidden Planet: "I'll bet any quantum mechanic in the service would give the rest of his life to fool around with this gadget"

  3. A quantum leap is a discontinuous change in energy levels without assuming intermediate values. In conversation, the implication is that incremental changes were possible, but that the topic in question instead went directly to a very different state: I'd call the Large Hadron Collider a quantum leap in particle accelerator technology, since instead of building a series of colliders a few hundred GeV more powerful than the last, we jumped directly ahead by TeV.

    On the other hand, I wouldn't call the decline in genome sequencing costs a quantum leap, because although it's been incredibly dramatic, it's fallen steadily and fairly predictably.

    Of course,the phrase is misused, but I think the sense of 'big change' is properly understood as 'skipping over smaller changes'

  4. well, Seth Lloyd's a professor of quantum mechanical engineering ;-)

  5. It is a melancholy object to observe weak uses of the overburdoned word "quantum" … however it is agreed by all parties that strong uses of "quantum" are of considerable interest. I shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope will not be liable to the least objection.

    (Quantum) Considered Optional

    Readers of Computational Complexity are invited to verify that the arxiv presently holds seven preprints for 2015 that are written by the honorable Ed Witten and his collaborators. In regard to their use of the word "quantum", these seven preprints divide naturally into three categories:

    Two preprints employ the word "quantum" frequently in its accustomed "physics" sense; both are posted to arxiv [cond-mat] (condensed matter):

    • Fermion path integrals and topological phases (arXiv:1508.04715v1 [cond-mat]) "quantum" on 13 pages of 86

    • Three lectures on topological phases of matter (arXiv:1510.07698v1 [cond-mat]) "quantum" on 21 pages of 60

    One book-length preprint employs the word "quantum" frequently, but not as frequently as the words "category" and "natural":

    • Algebra of the infrared (arXiv:1506.04087v1 [hep-th]) "quantum" on 53 pages of 430 ("category" on 64 pages, "natural" on 106 pages)

    The remaining four preprints are broadly concerned with (what physicists call) "quantum" phenomena … and yet the word "quantum" appears infrequently or even (in one preprint) not at all.

    • The super period matrix with Ramond punctures (arXiv:1501.02499v1 [hep-th] ) "quantum" on 1 page of 60.

    • Filling the gaps with PCO's (arXiv:1504.00609v2 [hep-th]) "quantum" on 0 pages of 40.

    • An introduction to the web-based formalism (arXiv:1506.04086v1 [hep-th]) "quantum" on 3 pages of 46

    • More on gauge theory and geometric Langlands (arXiv:1506.04293v1 [hep-th]) "quantum" on 3 pages of 79

    Conclusion  It is evident that cutting-edge (quantum) dynamical research scarcely requires the word "quantum" … to assist young researchers it is therefore recommended that "(quantum)" henceforth appear only parenthetically, such that the sense of the research is preserved even when the parenthetical (quanta) are omitted entirely.

    Please allow me to profess, in the sincerity of my heart, that I have not the least personal interest in endeavoring to promote this necessary work, having no other motive than the public good of the (quantum) STEAM community.