Friday, February 24, 2006

Quantum dissertating

Scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have used a quantum computer to solve an algorithm by, er, not running the algorithm. They used something called 'counterfactual computation' to infer the nature of the solution without actually determining it.

Now, this probably sounds like a lot of mystical mumbo-jumbo to you slope-browed subhumans, but it makes perfect sense to me.

I'm writing my dissertation using a related process that I call 'counterproductive productivity'. For example, today I spent a few hours surfing the web and then watched Olympic figure skating. To the untrained eye of the ignorant layman, it might look like I didn't get anything done. However, I spend pretty much every day the same way I spent this one (except most of the time I'm stuck with Law and Order: SVU reruns instead of scantily-clad chicks on ice), and my dissertation is slowly getting done. In fact, I've written about 50 pages of it since the beginning of the year. Now, if we divide the number of pages written by the number of days in the year so far--54--we see that I'm producing about a page a day.

So where's today's page? you may wonder. Well, get used to disappointment, because I can't tell you. It is well known in quantum mechanics that one cannot know both the velocity and the position of a particle--that's Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, bitches. Similarly, in quantum dissertating one cannot know both the velocity and position of one's dissertation. I already know the velocity--one page a day--so it is impossible for me to determine the position!

In view of this astounding fact of physical reality, I think I'd better get back to the TV. After all, I've got a dissertation to write.


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