Monday, February 19, 2018

It's only a B, but still..

I recently took (and surprise, surprise, completed) a course on edX. Things like that will be old news to many by now, but this is the first time I used a MOOC, so I thought I should record my impressions.

The course in question: 'Quantum Information Science I, Part I', given by Prof. Peter Shor and Prof. Isaac Chuang, giants of the field from MIT. Prof Shor is the discoverer of one of the best known quantum algorithms and Prof Chuang is, among other things, coauthor of the definitive textbook of the field. There was one long talk by Charles Bennett too, another giant and a pioneer of quantum cryptography, and which was certainly one of the best ones from the whole course.

The course was divided in three subunits (you can see the syllabus here), each with a set of lecture clips, concept questions and problems. While I had not studied this area before, I was not totally ignorant of it either and my chief concern was the amount of mathematics that would be needed. My math skills are what a normal (in a statistical sense, not on a scale of sanity) education would give, but thankfully most of the course was approachable. More linear algebra would certainly have helped though. Also not to say all the lectures were easily understandable, some certainly went over my head. The problems require work, though they are doable (or at least most are. As I said, it's only a B). 

So here is the overall impression, I learned a great deal, had a lot of fun working it out, and it was a wonderful experience (and for me, the best part) to watch these distinguished scholars so visibly in love with their subject. And lest anyone be inclined to question the claim about fun above, I offer this picture

[Yours truly trying to figure out the rotation axis on the Bloch sphere corresponding to Hadamard gate using an orange]

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