Quantum Computing for Beginners

A class for quantum enthusiasts

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The future graphic textbook: “Quantum Computing for Beginners”

Now that the class is over, you may have noticed that I never actually finished my story of how Richard Feynman and Alan Turing meet, and together with your help defeat the Nazis using quantum computing. Fret not, I still plan to complete this project, but after I finish my thesis and graduate.

I would like to combine elements of a graphic novel with a traditional textbook, inspired by things like Logicomix, the Feynman graphic novel, Larry Gonick’s cartoon guides, Scott McCloud’s comic book about comics. Maybe I’ll do a kickstarter, maybe I’ll self-publish.

If you would like to receive an e-mail reminder of when this happens, you can follow this blog, or sign up for this mailing list. Don’t worry, I promise not to spam you or give out your personal information. I hate spam as much as the next person, so updates will be very, very infrequent.

Syllabus and course calendar updated

We’ve reached the (more than) halfway point of the class. Congratulations on making it this far!

Since I am making up this class as we go along, now is a great time to update the syllabus, summarize where we’ve been, and highlight where we are going.

Unfortunately we don’t have time to cover some topics I originally wanted to talk about (like quantum error correction), but in exchange, I think we’ve gotten a good grounding in the fundamentals of quantum mechanics. The remainder of the class will focus on getting to the famous Shor’s factoring algorithm, and then we’ll switch tracks to prepare for programming and understanding the D-Wave One machine. To keep a reasonable pace, I won’t be able to satisfy everyone’s curiosity about the topics we introduce, but in the last class I will tell you about various opportunities to learn more about quantum computing in the future.

“Chapter 4.5” reading: quantum circuits, entanglement, teleportation, superdense coding

I hope you had a Happy Halloween! Since I was sick last week, I instead assigned a reading, the so-called “Chapter 4.5”, cobbled together from Dave Bacon’s notes on quantum circuits, entanglement, teleportation, and superdense coding. Understanding it will use the concept of measurement, which we discussed in lecture this past Tuesday. It really is an appropriate theme, since Einstein called “spooky action at a distance.” In a sense, quantum spookiness haunted him and Max Planck all their lives, like a ghost. Okay, I’m stretching here.

There was no new homework. Instead, your homework will just be catching up on all old homework up to Chapter 4, including the problems that require you to post in the Catalyst message board.

These are Dave’s excellent, original lecture notes from winter 2006. You can read the full versions here, if you are curious:

You’ll need these in future assignments, which will involve drawing quantum circuits and understanding entanglement.

Chapter 2 available for unlock

Chapter 2 (In which we meet Turing and Feynman) is now available for unlocking if you are in the class.

You have to successfully turn in Chapter 1 homework in order to plant the idea of a quantum computer in the minds of Alan Turing and Richard Feynman.

Here are some tantalizing illustrations by Stephen Rice.

Chapter 1 public release

I’ve decided to release the chapters publicly a week or two after the students have received them.

Here is chapter the first, in which Elina meets Ehrenfest, Planck, and a quantum bit.  I’ve included some of Stephen’s great illustrations below to entice you. Any and all feedback is welcome.

Chapter 1 released

I sent out Chapter 1 of the story and the corresponding homework out to the class mailing list. Students, please let me know if you don’t receive it!

Again, I’d like to give a shout out to our fantastic illustrator, Stephen Rice, who has been very understanding with my last-minute requests.

In the future, I’ll only bring printed copies to hand out in class after we have all discussed the homework and unlocked the next chapter.