On this week’s installment of Exploration, Michio Kaku speaks with Dr. Seth Shostak, about contacting alien civilizations in space. Later on, he’ll talk with Dr. Seth Lloyd of MIT about quantum computers.
About the guests:
Lloyd was born on August 2, 1960. He graduated from Phillips Academy in 1978 and received a bachelor of arts degree from Harvard College in 1982. He earned a certificate of advanced study in mathematics and a master of philosophy degree from Cambridge University in 1983 and 1984, while on a Marshall Scholarship. Lloyd was awarded a doctorate by Rockefeller University in 1988 (advisor Heinz Pagels) after submitting a thesis on Black Holes, Demons, and the Loss of Coherence: How Complex Systems Get Information, and What They Do With It. From 1988 to 1991, Lloyd was a postdoctoral fellow in the High Energy Physics Department at the California Institute of Technology, where he worked with Murray Gell-Mann on applications of information to quantum-mechanical systems. From 1991 to 1994, he was a postdoctoral fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he worked at the Center for Nonlinear Systems on quantum computation. In 1994, he joined the faculty of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT. Since 1988, Lloyd has also been an adjunct faculty member at the Santa Fe Institute.
His research area is the interplay of information with complex systems, especially quantum systems. He has performed seminal work in the fields of quantum computation and quantum communication, including proposing the first technologically feasible design for a quantum computer, demonstrating the viability of quantum analog computation, proving quantum analogs of Shannon’s noisy channel theorem, and designing novel methods for quantum error correction and noise reduction.
In his book, Programming the Universe, Lloyd contends that the universe itself is one big quantum computer producing what we see around us, and ourselves, as it runs a cosmic program. According to Lloyd, once we understand the laws of physics completely, we will be able to use small-scale quantum computing to understand the universe completely as well.
Lloyd states that we could have the whole universe simulated in a computer in 600 years provided that computational power increases according to Moore’s Law. However, Lloyd shows that there are limits to rapid exponential growth in a finite universe, and that it is very unlikely that Moore’s Law will be maintained indefinitely.
Lloyd is principal investigator at the MIT Research Laboratory of Electronics, and directs the Center for Extreme Quantum Information Theory (xQIT) at MIT.
Dr. Seth Shostak (born July 20, 1943) is an American astronomer. He grew up in Arlington, VAand earned his physics degree from Princeton University and a Ph.D. in astronomy from the California Institute of Technology.
He is the Senior Astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, and the 2004 winner of the Klumpke-Roberts Award awarded by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the public understanding and appreciation of astronomy.
In addition to his experience as an active participant in SETI research, Shostak is also involved as a science educator. He presented twelve 30-minute lectures on audio-tape and video titled “The Search for Intelligent Life in Space” for the Teaching Company in 1999.
Since February 2002, Shostak has hosted the SETI Institute’s radio program Are We Alone?, which was renamed Big Picture Science” in July 2011. Each week, Shostak interviews guests about the latest scientific research on a variety of topics: cosmology, physics, genetics, paleontology, evolutionary biology and astrobiology. Big Picture Science is distributed on the Public Radio Satellite System and the Public Radio Exchange and is available for download at the SETI Institute’s website and through podcasts.
In January 2010 he was elected as a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.
He has been an observer for Project Phoenix (SETI) as well as an active participant in various international forums for SETI research. He is also Chair of the International Academy of Astronautics SETI Permanent Study Group.
Dr. Shostak has been nominated by the SETI Institute to be one of the USA Science and Engineering Festival‘s Nifty Fifty Speakers who will speak about his work and career to middle and high school students in October 2010.