On Wednesday, Larry Hardesty of the MIT News Office published a nice article about my work with Alex Arkhipov on the computational complexity of linear optics. Although the title—”The quantum singularity”—made me wince a little, I was impressed by the effort Larry put into getting the facts right, and especially laying out the problems that still need to be solved.
Less successful was a story in PC Magazine based on MIT’s press release, which contained the following sentence (let me know if you can decipher what the author meant—I couldn’t):
Aaronson says that he and Arkhipov have not successfully proven that designing a device capable of testing the theory is impossible—which is an important first step, whether to eventually building a quantum computer, or even just laying the initial framework for using the microscopic secrets of the universe to let humans better understand the world that surrounds them.
However, in the competition for Popular Science Article Sentence of the Year, the sentence above will have to contend with a now-classic sentence from the New York Times article about Watson:
More than anything, the contest was a vindication for the academic field of computer science, which began with great promise in the 1960s with the vision of creating a thinking machine and which became the laughingstock of Silicon Valley in the 1980s, when a series of heavily financed start-up companies went bankrupt.
To the NYT’s credit, they quickly posted a correction:
An article last Thursday about the I.B.M. computer Watson misidentified the academic field vindicated by Watson’s besting of two human opponents on “Jeopardy!” It is artificial intelligence — not computer science, a broader field that includes artificial intelligence.