The ninth edition of the Science Gala took place on Tuesday November 23, in a sold-out International Theater Amsterdam, with ‘common sense’ as the theme this year. Under the musical guidance of curator Erik de Jong, better known by his stage name Spinvis, scientists shared insights from their field on this theme with the audience. As always, New Scientist editor-in-chief Jim Jansen gave the presentation.
Harry Buhrman takes the stage with a violin in his hand. The director of the pioneering research center QuSoft talks about how he and his colleagues are developing quantum software, and what the importance of this is. Under musical accompaniment of Stacey Jeffery and Maris Ozols, he demonstrates the principle of a quantum computer. Buhrman: ‘What music is more than rhythm is the same as what a quantum computer is more than a classical computer’.
You can translate a rhythm into a series of zeros and ones. A 0 stands for no sound and a 1 for sound, as in the calculation of a computer it stands for whether or not there is a signal. Just like the computing power of a computer, you can speed up and slow down this signal of zeros and ones. You can also create slightly more complex tunes by playing multiple rhythms in sync, just like you can do more complex computations by connecting computers in parallel.
Yet the musical depth of a classical computer remains limited. To really play a melody, you also need tones. Just as a tone is a sound wave that vibrates with a certain frequency, a quantum bit (qubit) is also a wave function with a certain number of vibrations. Only a single note is still not enough to create music. For this you need a harmony of several sound waves, just as you need a superposition of quantum particles for quantum calculations.
With a large applause Harry ended his performance with the song ‘In Staat van Narcose’ by Spinvis. And if you did not know how a quantum computer really works before, than at least with this performance you could now feel what a quantum computer can do more than a classical computer!
Gala van de Wetenschap
Every year, the Gala lets the best scientists take you through the most mind-blowing facts and discoveries. Besides Harry Buhrman, other big names such as Robbert Dijkgraaf, Iris Sommer and Henkjan Honing were also performing on stage. Next year, the tenth edition of the Science Gala will take place on November 22, 2022.