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Information Theory and Quantum Computers

  1. Jun 21, 2009 #1
    I want to be a physics major and I am very interested Astrophysics as a final career path. However recently, after reading a few books about it I have become interested in Information Theory and the prospect of Quantum Computers. I have a very strong Math, Physics, and Computer Science background but I was wondering what major/Academic path could lead to doing Quantum Computer research?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 22, 2009 #2
    My 2 cents...not very rigid responses, but based on usual trends. Have thrown in some names you might want to check out using wikipedia.

    Math/CS => theoretical/axiomatic quantum computing (algorithms, linear algebra, operators, efficiency, complexity)

    Physics => some of the above + research using QM, quantum field theory, quantum electrodynamics (specifically cavity quantum electrodynamics) + realization of quantum computers

    EE => the Math/CS stuff + physical realization of quantum computers, quantum circuits, gates, implementation aspects, small measurements/quantum metrology, instrumentation + at least some of the physics stuff (if you have a good background in quantum mechanics). Oh and information theory is a very strong component of EE.

    As an example, have a look at the textbook by Nielson and Chuang (one of the standard books on the subject). Issac Chuang (http://web.mit.edu/physics/facultyandstaff/faculty/isaac_chuang.html) has degrees in physics and electrical engineering, whereas Michael Nielson (http://michaelnielsen.org/blog/?page_id=181) has degrees in physics.

    PS -- Of all these degrees, imho, CS is the most restrictive as it will (generally) keep you from all the other problems and allow you to focus primarily on the algorithmic aspects of quantum computing.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  4. Jun 22, 2009 #3
    Look for a college that does solid research on quantum computing. A physics degree is probably a good idea and you can then do postgraduate research in quantum computing.

    Not so sure about Electrical engineering. You should cover most of the electrical subjects while doing your physics degree if your college has a strong quantum computing research school.
  5. Jun 22, 2009 #4
  6. Jun 22, 2009 #5


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    I'm not so sure about the quantum aspect of computing but information theory can be extended to many areas of science including thermodynamics in physics, modelling investment portfolios in the stock market and other scientific endeavours such as ultimate compression schemes for random strings of information.

    If you're interested in astrophysics you will certainly be looking possibly at black holes, its thermodynamics and the information problems associated with them. Information theory plays a huge role here.

    I recently purchased a book in information theory which is an electrical/telecommunications book in information theory that explains things from the ground up called Elements of Information theory published by Wiley. Since you said you have a strong background in maths, physics, and computer science I can easily recommend it to you. Its published about 1991 but its still a good book.

    With regards to quantum mechanics and information theory unfortunately I have no solid references that I can use to help you get started. I myself want to get into this when the time is right but alas I am still focusing on particular specializations of information theory in computing (not quantum computing though).

    Most of information theory has its roots in statistical mathematics, so any book on statistical mechanics that has thorough foundations in explaining entropy, relative entropy, mutual information and the relationships between information and the laws of thermodynamics is your best bet. Hopefully someone specializing in statistical mechanics can guide you here.

    Good luck with it all.
  7. Jun 23, 2009 #6
    Well, first you need to be fairly strong in probability theory. Something at the level of Papoulis, with Feller and Ross as guiding textbooks is a good idea. Probability theory is the backbone of all information theory (classical or quantum). For quantum mechanics, if you're already exposed to calculus, you could begin by reading the Berkeley series, Feynman's volume 3 and Griffiths' book. No matter which of the 3 listed career options you choose, knowing physics is useful. You could also start reading the book on Quantum Computation and Quantum Information by Michael Nelson and David Chuang, which I had referred to in an earlier post.
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