Father of Quantum Computing Wins $3 Million Award

Father of Quantum Computing Wins Million-Dollar Award
Father of Quantum Computing Wins Million-Dollar Award

David Deutsch shared the award with three others after proposing a hitherto unbuilt mechanism to confirm the existence of parallel universes. Science's most prestigious award went to a theoretical physicist who had never held a regular job for his groundbreaking work on such a revolutionary subject as quantum computing.

Deutsch of the University of Oxford, along with three other scientists, received the $3m (approximately £2,65m) Groundbreaking award in fundamental physics for their work laying the groundwork for the broader field of quantum information.

Deutsch, 69, earned the title of "father of quantum computing" after proposing a new device to study the possibility of parallel universes. Deutsch's 1985 publication laid the foundation for the raw quantum computers that researchers are currently developing.

According to Deutsch, a computer containing some quantum components was used in the thought experiment. It took me another six years to think of it as a universal quantum computer as it is known today.

Breakthrough awards are given annually to scientists and mathematicians who have been selected by committees of previous winners. Its creators in Silicon Valley call these awards the Oscars of science. This year, one award in physics, three awards in life sciences and a fourth in mathematics are presented. $3 million each.

Deutsch grew up in north London, where his family owned a restaurant, and was born in Israel to Holocaust survivors. He studied quantum theory at Oxford for his PhD under Dennis Sciama, who also supervised Stephen Hawking and royal astronomer Lord Rees. As Deutsch delved deeper into the foundations of the theory, he developed a fondness for the Multiple Worlds interpretation introduced in 1957 by the US physicist Hugh Everett III. Although many have a hard time accepting it, according to Everett, events that occur in our reality lead to hidden parallel worlds in which alternative realities exist.

Making a living by writing books, teaching lectures, receiving scholarships and winning awards, Deutsch helped advance quantum computing by describing quantum bits, or qubits, and creating the first quantum algorithm to surpass its classical counterpart.

Peter Shor, an expert in quantum algorithms at MIT, shares his physics prize
Peter Shor, an expert in quantum algorithms at MIT, shares his physics prize

He shares the award with Peter Shor of MIT, an expert in quantum algorithms, as well as Gilles Brassard of the University of Montreal and Charles Bennett of IBM in New York. These people created unbreakable variants of quantum cryptography and contributed to the invention of quantum teleportation, a method of transferring information from one place to another.

It took years of painstaking research to discover the origin of the severe sleeping sickness narcolepsy, for which Emmanuel Mignot of Stanford University and Masashi Yanagisawa of the University of Tsukuba share the biology prize. Mignot's research on canine narcolepsy has linked altered brain receptors to the disorder. Meanwhile, Yanagisawa identified the neurotransmitter orexin, which functions through the receptor. Yanagisawa initially believed that orexin was related to appetite, but mice without orexin appeared to be feeding normally. Mice are nocturnal, so he preferred to film animals at night. His team didn't realize until then that the creatures had suddenly fallen asleep. Yanagisawa says: “It was really a eureka moment.

Further research by Mignot revealed that orexin is absent in the hippocampus of patients with narcolepsy. It is thought that clusters of orexin-producing cells are eliminated by faulty immune responses, and thus rates of narcolepsy increased during the 2009 “swine flu” pandemic. Research paves the way for new narcolepsy drugs that mimic orexin.

 

Half Hassabis
DeepMind's Demis Hassabis shares the life sciences award for her work on protein folding

Demis Hassabis and John Jumper of DeepMind, a subsidiary of Alphabet, won their third life sciences award. Predicting how proteins fold was a major 50-year challenge in biology that the team set out to address. The function of a protein is determined by its form, so it is extremely important to understand diseases and develop drugs to treat them.

DeepMind researchers published the structure of 200 million proteins earlier this year, leading to research in areas as diverse as malaria and plastic recycling. Hassabis describes it as “the most meaningful thing to do using AI in the sciences” and also a “starting point” – an indication of the feasibility of using AI to solve problems that are expected to exceed our lifetimes.
Prior to the pandemic, Breakthrough Award winners were honored at a glamorous, celebrity-filled gala in Silicon Valley. The awards were created by Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, Yuri Milner and others. Deutsch, who gave a TED conference via robot, is unlikely to attend the ceremony this year, at least in this reality. “I enjoy conversations,” he explained. But I don't like to travel.

Source: sciandnature

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