What I left with from RQI-N 2016

The IQC recently hosted a conference on Relativistic Quantum Information (RQI). My research falls within this field, which is a relatively-new, but quickly-expanding field which exists at the intersection of quantum information and relativity. By utilizing tools from these fields, RQI provides insights into the nature of gravity and the structure of spacetime, as well as how relativity can affect quantum information tasks. Eduardo Martín-Martínez recently wrote a blog post discussing RQI and the goals of the Relativistic Quantum Information North (RQI-N) conference.

What science was presented at RQI-N 2016?

RQI-N 2016 included talks on quantum information and black holes, tests of quantum foundations and quantum information in gravitational fields, relativistic effects in quantum information theory and quantum information processing. All the RQI talks will be made available on the IQC YouTube channel, and I highly recommend watching them. 

However, we are all busy people. If you can only take the time to watch a few, I would recommend the following:

  • The opening talk of the conference was given by Juan León, who spoke on Tsirelson’s problem from an RQI perspective. This problem poses the question of whether or not a commutative operator formalism (a la algebraic quantum field theories) can be approximated by a tensor product formalism (a la quantum mechanics). It is a current hot topic in quantum information, and Juan brings physical insight to a rather abstract problem.

  • Silke Weinfurter from the University of Nottingham and presented results from her recent experiments in analogue black holes (we will publish the video once her paper is published), while Jeff Steinhauerfrom Technion reported observation of thermal Hawking radiation from an analogue black hole. These two talks together spurred ample discussion.

  • Barry Sanders spoke on a topic closely related to my research. He discussed how sensitive entanglement harvesting is to imprecision in clocks and distance measures.

  • Nick Menicucci spoke about sonic relativity, which asks the question, ‘what analogies can we draw between the following observers: one limited to probing their world via sound and one limited to probing their world with light.’ This thought-provoking talk spurred, by far, the most heated debate within the conference.

  • Finally, a recent Perimeter Scholars International graduate, Nicholas Funai, gave the talk that has the most potential to spur sci-fi adventure novels. While that may seem to be a trivial metric to gauge a talk by, the idea is a creative use of a new quantum tool. Essentially, Nicholas Funai, in collaboration with Eduardo Martín-Martínez, alters Masahiro Hotta’s Quantum Energy Teleportation (QET) protocol to engineer spacetimes with negative energy densities. Maybe that sounds a little dry, but such spacetimes include the Alcubierre drive and the Einstein-Rosen Bridge.

  • What fun is had at an RQI conference?

    During the conference, several social activities were planned. Among them: a reception at the IQC, a BBQ at the Grad House, and a round of PowerPoint-Karaoke, a game where a person has to give a presentation of slides that they’ve never seen before. During PowerPoint-Karaoke, a graduate student attending the conference told us of the dangers of Canadian Geese.

    On the Saturday following the conference, a number of conference participants took part in an outing to Niagara Falls. For several people, this was their first time in Southern Ontario and their first opportunity to see the great falls.

    Why are conferences important aspects of scientific collaboration?

    As a graduate student who volunteered to assist in organizing RQI-N 2016, I saw a great deal of the behind-the-scenes work involved in making the conference a success. The organizers, Achim Kempf, Eduardo Martín-Martínez and Robb Mann, put in a great deal of energy and the conference simply could not have been if it weren’t for the hard work and logistical expertise of Lana Kovacevic, Kimberly Kuntz and Jodi Szimanski.

    Given the resources put into a conference like this, it is good to ask, “Why do we do this?” Personally, I value RQI-N for allowing me to hear first-hand about new scientific research. I had the opportunity to discuss science with colleagues and idols who live across the globe, and at RQI-N 2016 I met future collaborators and engaged in passionate debates on open questions in physics, math and quantum information. In other words, RQI-N was exciting!

    However, there is another answer to the question “Why do we do this?” Conferences are part of our job as physicists, mathematicians, and computer scientists. It is at RQI-N, and at IQC, where ideas are born which will spur the next generation of innovation, and it is our job to be a part of that synthesis of new ideas. 

    In other words, conferences are work. 

    Now that I’m a graduate student, it is my job to know what is going on in my field. While it was passion that began my career path, it is my responsibility to myself, to my supervisors, and to society that keeps me focused. 

    When it comes to doing science, I’m still wet behind the ears, but it’s my responsibility to fill in the missing pieces. When I don’t understand something, I take notes, I ask questions and I look things up. I am a part of the RQI and quantum information communities now. It is my responsibility to further society’s understanding of the laws of nature and to help harness technologies that will positively impact the world.

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