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Quantum Computing Pioneers Must Throw Heavy Friggin’ Metal Balls at a Window

Quantum Computing Pioneers

At a demonstration of Tesla’s new Cybertruck last week, entrepreneur Elon Musk asked his head of design, Franz von Holzhausen, to chuck a heavy metal ball at the truck’s supposedly impervious window.

Turns out, it wasn’t so impervious.

Thinking the laws of physics were a little less restrictive a few centimeters to the right, he asked von Holzhausen to toss another one.

Turns out the laws of physics are pretty uniform throughout the surface of that window.

Some reports suggest that Musk lost almost a billion dollars in net worth due to those two casual metal ball tosses.

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But, Musk also said they registered almost 150,000 orders for the truck. And Musk, who has spent a career chucking metal balls willy-nilly, also garnered viral interest and debate. I don’t doubt that he or Franz will soon pipe that metal ball down the pike and see it bounce harmlessly of the armour-glass, or whatever the hell it’s called.

That fire, that crazy-is-as-crazy-does attitude is entirely lacking in the burgeoning quantum computing era. It’s a community that needs a quantum computing pioneer to throw a heavy friggin’ metal ball at a window, not once, but, in defiance of all known laws of physics, twice.

While most experts suggest the real enemy was, is, and always will be quantum hype, I disagree.

First, outside of the bubble of quantum computing aficionados, many people do not know that quantum computing even exists. A large group knows it exists, but have no idea how it works. And a majority might have heard about quantum computing, but have no idea about the impact a quantum computer will have, hype or not.

That’s not a problem with hype. That reveals a lack of vision, a failure of spirit, and, at the very least, an inability to effectively communicate the wonder of this life-changing technology.

Second, within the quantum computing community, we are more likely to caution against quantum hype than we are to encourage throwing another metal ball. Google’s quantum supremacy claim, which, at the very least was years ahead of schedule, received a bit of hype in the mainstream press, but most experts tamped down expectations on the achievement, which may have been the judicious thing to do. But it wasn’t the brave thing to do. 

So, this is the challenge to the quantum computing pioneers out there: If you are throwing a heavy friggin’ metal ball at a window in the quantum computing industry, just let me know. We’re here to tell the world about it. If you fail, we’ll even encourage you to take another crack at it. So to speak.

Matt Swayne

With a several-decades long background in journalism and communications, Matt Swayne has worked as a science communicator for an R1 university for more than 12 years, specializing in translating high tech and deep tech for the general audience. He has served as a writer, editor and analyst at The Quantum Insider since its inception. In addition to his service as a science communicator, Matt also develops courses to improve the media and communications skills of scientists and has taught courses. [email protected]

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