Author of “Physics for Babies” takes on the challenge of explaining quantum computing


“I strip away one layer at a time until I have one core concept,” says Chris Ferrie, the new quantum education adviser for Q-CTRL.

If you can write a series of board books about physics for toddlers, you’ve got the right experience for explaining quantum computing to business leaders.

Quantum physics professor Chris Ferrie is the new quantum education adviser for Q-CTRL, a company that specializes in controls for quantum computing. Q-CTRL improves hardware performance and accelerates pathways to useful quantum computers and other technologies. 

A recent survey of TechRepublic readers found that most people have limited understanding of the topic. One factor that makes the subject difficult to master is the vocabulary. Even after you get your mind around the basic idea of quantum computing, there’s a big list of concepts that you’ll need to master next. 

Ferrie said that his writing process is messy and chaotic just like the complexity of challenging topics.  

“I strip away one layer at a time until I have one core concept,” he said. “I then try to build up a story about that concept using analogies relatable for the audience I have in mind.”

SEE: The CIO’s guide to quantum computing (ZDNet) 

He said that the process is full of trial and error and he often has to start over from scratch.

Ferrie said he avoids jargon as much as possible when explaining complex topics. He also counts on readers coming to the material ready to put in some effort to learn. 

“Someone who is not ready to make the commitment to learn, cannot be guided,” he said. “If you want to understand how a quantum computer works, you need to understand entanglement, for example, there is no shortcut.”  

In addition to building tools to harness the power of quantum computing, Q-CTRL is making it easier to understand the concepts of this new technology. The company’s Black Opal platform can help students, researchers, and algorithm developers understand and control quantum hardware and the factors that impact performance. The platform allows users to analyze the performance of single-qubit driven controls, get actionable information about noise sources that disrupt quantum hardware, and use visualizations to test output controls. 

Ferrie said he looks for different feedback based on the target audience. 

When someone tags me in an Instagram post showing their cute baby holding my books, that’s a good sign,” he said. “On the other end of the spectrum, with the educational technology being developed at Q-CTRL, which will include interactive elements, the ability for rapid feedback is built in.”

Q-CTRL has a series of videos and webinars about quantum computing in its Learning Center.

I’m working closely with Q-CTRL’s team of engineers and designers on the forthcoming BLACK OPAL 2.0 product to take advantage of real interactivity and 3D visualizations of tough concepts to bring this material to life,” he said.

Ferrie teaches at the University of Technology in Sydney and the Centre for Quantum Computing Software and Information.  He also writes about kids and quantum computing on his blog.

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