Computational Phenomena in Physics

Introduction of Physics Session
Avi Wigderson, Herbert H. Maass Professor in the School of Mathematics
Institute for Advanced Study

Computational Phenomena in Physics
Scott Aaronson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Scott Aaronson discusses the quest to understand the limits of efficient computation in the physical universe, and how that quest has been giving us new insights into physics over the last two decades. He explores the following questions: Can scalable quantum computers be built? Can they teach us anything new about physics? Is there some new physical principle that explains why they cannot be built? What would quantum computers be good for? Can quantum computing help us resolve which interpretation of quantum mechanics is the right one? Which systems in nature can be universal computers, and which cannot? Aaronson will end by describing a striking recent application of computational complexity theory to the black hole information loss problem.

Scott Aaronson is an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Aaronson earned his Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2004. His research focuses on the capabilities and limits of quantum computers, and more generally on computational complexity and its relationship to physics. Cambridge University Press published his first book, Quantum Computing Since Democritus, in 2013. Aaronson has written about quantum computing for Scientific American and the New York Times, and writes a popular blog www.scottaaronson. com/blog. He’s received the National Science Foundation’s Alan T. Waterman Award, the United States PECASE Award, and MIT’s Junior Bose Award for Excellence in Teaching.



Massachusetts Institute of Technology