The Clarity of Brevity

As a writer, I’ve spent a lot of time crafting sentences and paragraphs. Writing a sentence is easy. Writing a sentence that communicates the idea in your mind to another is much more challenging. The translation from mind to words to mind again is lossy. There’s a fashionable way to write, which suggests using concise language to make a point. This is particularly true in scientific writing. In the more mathematical sciences, I imagine this…

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Code as Knowledge Distilled

When I was an undergraduate, I did my best to stay away from a computer to do physics. I saw myself as a theorist, and in my head, a good theorist could get everything they wanted done with pencil and paper. I remember one particularly vivid time that I used a computer algebra system to calculate Riemann tensors for my research in gravitation theory, and I hated dealing with the complexity of the program. It…

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Evolving Qubits With Bits

As a quantum theorist, my job is to study quantum systems and understand their inner workings. However, since I’m a theoretical physicist and not a experimental physicist, most of my “experiments” come in the form of simulations. My laboratory is my computer, and this means writing numerical experiments. But wait a second, you tell me. Isn’t the whole point of quantum computers to do things that our regular computers can’t? And aren’t there issues with…

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The Shattering of SAT

If condensed matter theorists have the Ising model, gravitational physicists have the Schwarzschild solution, and quantum foundation theorists have the Bell inequalities, then theoretical computer scientists have satisfiability, or SAT. In the world of computer science (and particularly computational complexity), many discussions inevitably circle back to SAT. In fact, SAT isn’t just something that theoretical computer scientists study. Satisfiability has a rich history with statistical physics, a field which wields powerful tools to probe the…

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Let’s hear more from the women who leave academia (Part 2)

After the publication of my previous post, I received an email from Dr Sian Grigg, who decided to leave academia following the completion of her PhD. Read on below to hear her story. Dear Kaitlin Thanks for thinking of us who did not continue! I have often thought about this question and still wonder, after 15 years, whether I should have tried harder to pursue a career in academia. And whether I might now try…

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Let’s hear more from the women who leave academia.

“On International Women’s Day”, I wrote on 8 March, “why don’t we instead highlight women who left the workforce due to structural barriers? The current approach is a bit “let’s celebrate the women who navigated this broken system to distract from the fact that it’s broken”.” So far, I have been one of the women who is “celebrated” on days like this, with social media campaigns showcasing the work of women in science. I am…

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Absorbers and Explorers

To be a scientist means to explore. You need to start from what is known and jump out into the void, investigating new ideas. In this regard, the scientist is an explorer, a person searching for new truths in a world without a map. To be more precise, a scientist uncovers the new map as they learn. When we talk about science, we like to emphasize the new discoveries. Whether that’s the discovery of gravitational…

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Virtual CNWW

If you want to learn a topic today, the resources are much more plentiful than even a few decades ago. The internet has given us wonderful resources to learn from, including some which leverage internet technologies to provide animations and teach topics in a much more interactive way. This is particularly true for mathematics and physics, which have been entrenched in dry textbooks that are a chore to read1 for much too long. The tools…

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Pick a State, Any State

Hilbert space is big. No, not big like the how the Earth is big compared to you. Rather, Hilbert space is astronomically big. Actually, that’s not quite right either. It’s bigger than that. I guess the best adverb I can use is that it’s mathematically big. In a Hilbert space, you tend to have a lot of room to maneuver. (To read more about that, check out my essay, “The Curse of Dimensionality”.) In the…

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