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Quantum physics at the University of Oxford

What is a quantum computer? How does it work and what can it do? How do you make the strongest magnetic field in the world? What’s so “super” about superconductors? Everyone, it seems, wants to know how quantum technologies will affect life in the near future. All was revealed on 17th October in “An evening of Quantum Discovery”, held in the Department of Physics, University of Oxford. But we nearly didn’t get in.

The event was open to the public, and so was very popular; the tickets were sold out before any of us could book. Fortunately, Dr. Amy Webber, our physics teacher and Head of Science, was able to secure for us some places as, before joining EF Academy Oxford, she used to be a professional researcher at the University of Oxford.

At the Physics Department’s Martin Wood complex, there were demo stalls set up, giving out information and showing prototypes of experiments and projects that had been conducted in the area of quantum physics.

My personal interests in quantum physics are computing and the data storage within it. What I’ve learned from the lecture I heard is that quantum computing has actually defied the rule of binary computing (Turing completeness), as it is using qubit units. The exciting news from this research is that quantum computing has the potential to be far faster and more accurate than the typical computer. However, there’s still long way to go: the quantum computer is still only able to do simple calculation with a high probability of getting a correct answer.

We also got a chance to see a laboratory with an on-going quantum experiment and possibly the coldest place in the explored universe! The staff explained to us that the fridge for a quantum experiment has to be as near to 0 kelvins as possible (i.e. equivalent to minus 273.15 °C or minus 459.67 °F), so the particle won’t be affected by its own vibration, and so will give more accurate data.

Being able to learn directly from Oxford University researchers about the exciting new research and innovative technology development in quantum physics is such an amazing opportunity!

 

By Chalisa Ano, current IB Year 2 student at EF Academy Oxford.

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