The Inner Workings of the
The compass is open, what is currently on your travel bucket list?
Vietnam, Botswana and Patagonia.
What music inspires you and gets you going?
Ugghh, I have such boring taste in music. Mostly I just listen to background “wallpaper” type music that you get on most radio stations. Sometimes when I need to push through and get some work done I listen to electronic and dance, but still at the mainstream end really.
Music certainly has its way with moods and boosting them. So, what’s your idea of the perfect day?
Spent with my wife and son, maybe on a beach and definitely with a nice meal and bottle of wine once the little one has gone to bed.
Some people can do with 6 hours of sleep, some need a solid 9 hours, others like somewhere in between – how many hours of sleep do you need to feel human?
As a father of a toddler, I don’t aim high really. Just to “sleep through the night,” whatever that means, is a win.
Everyone has a list of favourite movies, what are some of your go-tos?
Again, boringly mainstream. I like the James Bond franchise, especially the ones with Daniel Craig, and Indiana Jones too. I also really enjoyed Lost in Translation, and we re-watch that one quite a bit.
And which types of books do you like to sink yourself into?
Books aren’t really something I think of as having a favourite of. I have read loads of great books, but it’s hard to compare.
Any podcasts that you listen to regularly?
I don’t really listen to podcasts. I’ve tried to get into them, but didn’t really.
You’re put on the spot and have to pick, is it sneakers or shoes?
I’d probably have to say sneakers.
Quantum computing is a great field for anybody who likes to have a clear and unequivocal goal to be working towards. Every day, we aim to solve problems that will bring ever sooner the day when we will use a quantum computer to solve a real world, classically intractable problem.
What drew you into the world of quantum computing?
I was working as a researcher in classical computing, and although I worked on some cracking projects with some great colleagues, I was always aware there was a paucity of the types of really hard, fundamental problems that I like to get stuck into – certainly not enough to sustain a whole career.
Plus, I’d always been drawn to the counterintuitive world of quantum mechanics on a philosophical level, and these two things prompted me to make the leap into quantum computing when the opportunity arose.
How did you first get involved with Cambridge Quantum?
A few years back I partnered with Cambridge Quantum as a postdoc working on a project related to the UK national quantum computer. A year or so later, I came back as a permanent employee.
What is the next big thing coming up for quantum computing?
I think there is an emerging realisation that the established dichotomy between NISQs that can only run variational algorithms and full-scale fault-tolerant quantum computers that will be able to perfectly run any quantum algorithm that you could dream of is a false one.
In fact, there is a continuum between these extremes, and a lot of our research is focussed on finding exciting and useful applications for every growth stage of quantum hardware towards full-scale.
What will the algorithms team be working on this year?
I think my previous answer covers this to some extent.
Who’s a historical scientist you’d like to meet and discuss quantum computing with?
Without a doubt that would be Alan Turing.
What is the greatest invention of all time in your opinion?
I’ll say vaccination – not just because it’s timely – but also because of Edward Jenner. He invented inoculation, which of course led to vaccination, and was from just up the road from where I’m from – a bit north of Bristol. I’ve always found him to be a particularly special local hero.
If you had to un-invent something, what would it be?
As a massive England football fan, I can say from the bottom of my heart that I wish penalty shoot-outs had never been invented.
Your take on the Drake equation and its estimation of the probable number of extraterrestrial civilisations in existence in the Milky Way galaxy?
It has a flawed premise. You can’t use a probabilistic argument for this sort of thing.
And since we are here… what about the Fermi paradox, or the apparent contradiction between the lack of evidence for extraterrestrial life and the very high probability of their existence?