[Following is the text of my after-dinner speech at the QIP 2002 conference on Jan. 16, 2002. The material in square brackets is notes added later; the rest is close to what I actually said, although not quite verbatim.]
We've been hearing technical talks for a few days now, so I thought instead I would share you with something I recently learned of a more cultural nature. I was one of those who went downtown to see the play [Proof] last night, and I discovered an interesting article in the back of the Playbill. It seems that with the success of "Copenhagen" and "Proof," Broadway producers are looking for more of the same. In particular, an attempt to combine the two has been made. Consequently, at the end of the month, a new play will open based on Shor's algorithm. It's called "Factor."
I was able to get a hold of an excerpt from "Factor," which I'd like to read to you. This scene has two characters ... Alice and Bob.
ALICE: My life is a mess. It's like entanglement.
BOB: Your love life or your work?
ALICE: My love life -- both -- they're related.
BOB: How is it like entanglement?
ALICE: It's so delicate -- if something goes wrong, and I try to fix it, I ruin it completely. Just examining it too closely ruins it.
BOB: You can't perform error correction ...?
ALICE: ... Because I'm above the threshold.
BOB: Your problem is that your private life is private -- secret -- and secret information is like entanglement. If everything you did were public knowledge, further scrutiny wouldn't hurt.
ALICE: Because there wouldn't be much left to destroy. That's not very helpful.
BOB: OK. My advice is that you need to separate your personal life from your professional life. You need to factor them.
ALICE: But what if I can't?
BOB: If your life is prime?
ALICE: Yes: What if my life is prime?
Hollywood has shown interest also. In fact, they've bought the movie rights to "Factor." Of course, Hollywood being Hollywood, they changed the name and rewrote the script. The movie title will be "Random Factor," starring Jean-Claude van Damme. I guess the producer heard someone mention Wim van Dam, and got confused. Anyway, here's an excerpt from the movie script:
ALICE: We have to get that quantum computer away from them or they will
break the encryption on that disk!
BOB: You're right. I worked for 10 years building that computer, but I should have destroyed it.
(Someone suspicious sidles up behind Bob, preparing to attack him.)
ALICE: Bob, look out!
(Bob spins and kicks the thug in the head.)
[Arthur Pittenger suggests that Bob should have made a "1/2 spin." Also, I want to emphasize that the thug is not Eve, merely one of her henchmen. Naturally, the confrontation with Eve does not occur until the movie's climax.]
Quantum computation has even penetrated popular culture enough to reach television. Later this month, a special quantum information episode of The Simpsons will be airing, with a cameo by Peter Shor (who unfortunately is not here). [Shor attended the other days of the conference.] In this scene, Homer has apparently been reading about the Reverse Shannon Theorem, which he has possibly misunderstood.
LISA: What're you doing, Dad?
HOMER: I'm hooking up this doohickey to the quantum phone to make noise in it.
LISA: Why would anyone want to add noise to a phone line?
HOMER: I don't want the government to read my quantum e-mail to Moe.
LISA: But Moe won't be able to read it either!
MARGE: Let your father work, Lisa. At least he's given up trying to teleport beer.
BART: Lisa's just jealous because Homer broke her home encryption kit.
LISA: Am not! And he didn't use the quantum computer, he ran it over with the car!
These are the only pieces currently in production, but I'm sure as quantum computation continues to penetrate the popular consciousness, we will see even more along these lines, so stay tuned.
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January 18, 2002