Chapter 25: Professor Charles Marcus


“Charles Marcus’s office is less than 200 meters away from my own, just across the lawn of Universitets – parken, in one of the wings of the old H.C. Ørsted Institute building. Here, his Center for Quantum Devices, or QDev, occupies more or less a whole floor. The center holds almost a hundred people, comprising university and Microsoft researchers, students, engineers and support staff. Despite the fact that this is something as uncommon as a university-Microsoft amalgamate, the halls look as grey and worn as anywhere else in the building. But Charles Marcus’s office is a friendly looking place of nice bookshelves, photos, and well-worn Danish designer furniture.”

“In a way, it is easy to interview Charles Marcus because he talks a lot. The challenge is to remember at the end of a long and fascinating answer what my question was, and whether he actually answered that or something else. But my first question – what the aim of his research is – goes rather well.”

“The aim of my research is to take known, or partially known, laws of physics in the context of quantum mechanics and use them for new ways of controlling and processing information. There are surprising connections between information theory – that is, how you encode and transmit information, how this cable here can transmit gigabytes per second of information – and quantum physics. Why would it be that the laws of quantum mechanics seem to provide mechanisms for information control and information processing that are better than, or at least different from, those of classical physics? Nobody knows why, but it’s a very interesting connection, which not only has a fundamental character, but also an extremely practical one. There are problems in science and engineering that cannot be solved with computers – well there are a million examples of problems that can’t be solved with computers – but there are hopes that if computers were based on the principles of quantum physics instead of, as now, those of classical physics, then perhaps some of those problems could be addressable. But my interests are not, principally in solving those problems, but in fundamental physics and how that relates to those problems.”

You can read the full portrait of professor Charles Marcus by downloading the chapter below.

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