Syllabus

The emphasis of this course is on the motivation, inspiration, and history behind building a quantum computer through the people, places, and stories in the folklore of physics and computer science. Mathematical formalism will be kept to the minimum to gain insight. The topics covered in the course (updated on November 5th) are / will be:

  • Week 1 (9/26): Lecture on “Computation is physical”: analog computers, probabilistic mechanisms, Chapter 1 released.
  • Week 2 (10/2): In-class exercises on single qubit, the Bloch sphere, Dirac notation, Chapter 2 released.
  • Week 3 (10/9): In-class exercises on multiple qubits, tensor product on vectors, Chapter 3 released.
  • Week 4 (10/16): In-class exercises on unitary operators, tensor product on matrices, Chapter 4 released.
  • Week 5 (10/23): Lecture on double-slit experiment, measurement, entanglement. Reading assigned (“Chapter 4.5“)
  • Week 6 (10/30): [Cancelled] unfortunately, I was sick. Finish up past weeks homeworks.
  • Week 7 (11/6): Lecture on quantum circuits, controlled operations, eigenvectors / eigenstates, quantum Fourier transform, Chapter 5 released.
  • Week 8 (11/13): Lecture on energy / Hamiltonians, prime factorization, Shor’s factoring algorithm, simulation using QCL, Chapter 6 released.
  • Week 9 (11/20): Guest lecture–Aram Harrow on adiabatic quantum computing, Chapter 7 released.
  • Week 10 (11/27): Tentative, physical implementations, QC experiments, Chapter 8 released.
  • Week 11 (12/4): D-Wave machine programming, Chapter 9 released.
  • Week 12 (12/11): Finals week celebration, interpretation of D-Wave machine results, pointers to future learning. Chapter 10 (conclusion) released

Recommended prerequisites are curiosity, a familiarity with computational models, high school physics, and basic linear algebra.

You might not be able to jump in and understand cutting-edge results in quantum computing after taking this class, but more importantly, you’ll know why you might care to. You might be inspired by the scientists in this story who originally discovered the principles behind quantum computing in the first place.

The primary high-level course objectives are:

  • Understand the basics of quantum physics from a computer scientist’s perspective, and how it describes reality
  • Be familiar with the key scientists, places, and events behind the development of both quantum physics and quantum computing.
  • Understand the philosophical implications of quantum computing, and why you might care about whether a quantum computer ever gets built.
  • Write, run, and interpret the results of a high-level program for a D-Wave One machine.
  • Have fun doing the above

The secondary course objectives are:

  • Learn some cool new mathematics, physics, and/or computer science.
  • Be able to make quantum jokes like a professional
  • Interpret quantum computing articles you read in the popular press (like Slashdot, Reddit, or other news sources)
  • Learn about the current state-of-the-art in quantum computing research and where to find more information and related opportunities (courses, textbooks, grad school, jobs).
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