Monday, July 14, 2008

Perimeter Institute - Waterloo - 3

My short stint at the Perimeter Institute is finally coming to an end. I will be leaving for Los Angeles tomorrow evening. I still have a day and a half left to enjoy the good weather and charms of this sleepy town.

I met up with Marcus Appleby at PI on Saturday afternoon. He had promised to explain me the connection between SIC-POVMs (Symmetric Informationally Complete - Positive Operator-Valued Measures) and the extended Clifford group. He and his wife both joined me in my office and we spent all of Saturday learning about this stuff. I liked his presentation and I quite enjoyed learning about this area since it has quantum mechanics, group theory and a bit of number theory and I enjoy reading and thinking about all three fields. Along the way we shared some stories and had a few laughs. It rained here a couple of days ago and one of the things that I found out about this sixty million dollar building is that the roof leaks in several places. The lobby was checkered with buckets and so were the second and third floors. I wonder if PI realizes that they have a huge liability on their hands. I found puddles of water on the stairs and that's an accident waiting to happen. I really think that they need to tear down the roof and start anew since they have been trying to patch up the leaky spots on the roof for quite some time now without an positive results.

Toward evening, I called up Sundance and I ended going with him and Philip Goyal to a local Indian restaurant on King Street called "Masala Bay". I must admit that I have rarely, rarely ever had such delicious food at an Indian restaurant in Los Angeles. King street is a short walk from PI and by the time we got to Masala Bay it was around seven in the evening. It was a bit cloudy, but there was very little humidity. Because of a gentle breeze that was blowing constantly in the evening and the nice weather we decided to sit outside on the patio which by the way is quite spacious. In my opinion the best way to enjoy Indian food is when you have three or more people so that you can treat your palate to a variety of flavors. I ordered the "Murg Tikka Makhani" which was essentially boneless pieces of chicken cooked in a mild, buttery sauce. Along with that I ordered some plain basmati rice and "naan bread." Sundance ordered the "Kerala Fish Curry", and the "Subj Diwani Handi" along with some saffron basmati rice. The "Subj Diwani Handi" was essentially a mixture of different vegetables and it went really well with the rice and the naan. Philip got an order of "Saag" and the "Machi Afgani", i.e. "Fish Afghani." The food came in these tasteful and cute copper bowl with copper ladels - very traditional and I quite liked the presentation. Now this was real Indian food. Not the mild, bland, Americanized stuff that one is usually tormented by in Indian restaurant around Los Angeles. So if you are in Waterloo, looking for some excellent ethnic food, I highly, highly recommend Masala Bay. The service is excellent, and the food is delicious. It may be a bit pricey, but the quality speaks for itself.

I woke up late on Sunday and headed to Cafe 1842 for some breakfast. I liked the ambiance and the food was quite good. I ordered an omelet, but then again there aren't that many ways in which one can make a mess out of an omelet. The weather was so gorgeous that I decided to take a walk around Silver Lake. This is the lake which is right next to PI. The lake is also part of Waterloo Park which I found out also has a small zoo. There are cages for Llamas, peacocks, ponies, and pheasants. The park was full of families and the children were all having a ball interacting with the animals. There's an old railway track that divides the park into two. On the east side you have Waterloo Park and on the west Centenial Park. I wanted a little peace, quiet and solitude so I headed to the latter. I walked for an hour in the park and then rested under the shade of a pine tree. The whole park is lush green with maple, pine and fir trees. I actually fell asleep for an hour. I woke up around five and then explored the park a bit more. The park has a couple of soccer fields and I ended up watching a game being played by a group of people from the Middle-East (Saudi Arabia, I am guessing) who were there for a picnic with their families.

I think it was a weekend well spent. Today I have been mostly typing up some notes on process tomography, reading a paper by Chris Fuchs and filling out an expense report form that I have to hand in to the PI folks before I leave for Los Angeles tomorrow.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Perimeter Institute - Waterloo - 2

Another day is almost ending here at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Canada. After my talk yesterday, Jonathan Walgate was kind enough to take me to a local pub on King Street called "The Jane Bond" that offered an excellent vegetarian burrito. We ended up talking to Debbie Leung, and Sundance Bilson-Thompson for several hours afterwards. Topics ranged from the current cinema, academia, to personal histories. I was quite tired by the time I crashed on my bed at my apartment which is on the seventh floor and has quite a view of the Waterloo-Kitchener area.

I spent a couple of hours in the morning translating one of Ghalib's wonderful ghazals with Tony Barnstone on Skype. He is in Greece right now, so connecting via Skype is the best way forward for us right now. Ahhhh, the wonders of modern technology. When you use it in the right way, there are no limits to your productivity. Later I had lunch with Lee Smolin whose book ("The Trouble With Physics") I had read a while this year. I had been wanting to meet him and give my opinion and what I thought of his views. He is quite the gentleman and extremely down-to-earth.

Later in the afternoon, I talked with Chris Fuchs about SIC-POVM (Symmetric Informationally Complete Positive Operator-Valued Measure). His office which is essentially one door down from mine has a nice cream-colored leather couch and a low-rise coffee table next to it, all of which sits on a nice pastel-colored rug. Instead of sitting on the couch I decided to sit cross-legged on the rug while Chris derived the SIC-POVM formalism and explained its importance and a potential link to understanding the foundations of quantum mechanics. He gave me quite a bit to chew on. Now all I need to do is masticate really well and then be confident enough to digest all the mouthfuls. He makes one feel so comfortable part of which I think is due to his Texan drawl - very friendly and down-to-earth. He is full of great physics' stories. :)

I met up with Sean Gryb and we threw a frisbee on the front lawn at PI. He's a graduate student of Lee Smolin's and works in quantum gravity. Tonight is burger night at the Black-Hole Bistro and their beef patties come in three different hot settings: spicy, mild and plain. Any guesses to which one I will be having?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Perimeter Institute - Waterloo - 1

I arrived at the Perimeter Institute (PI) on Monday evening. The flight from Los Angeles to Toronto was uneventful, however, there was something bizarre that happened along the way. After I purchased my e-ticket at LAX, I proceeded to place the bag that I wanted to check-in on to the weighing scales. The lady behind the American Airlines counter tagged it and sent it on its way to the proper airplane. Now as I was going through security-check I realized that I had completely forgotten to screen the checked-in bag. It was too late to turn back and so I prayed to the airport gods that I see my bag arrive safely in Toronto. I am happy to say that I did. I do hope that these bags go through additional checks before they lug them into the stowaway compartment in the belly of the airplane. Incidentally my seat was next to Emily Liman who is an associate professor in the department of biological sciences at USC. It is a small world after all, isn't it? :)
After I procured my bag, I safely made my way to the limo service which the folks at PI were kind enough to arrange for me in advance. I don't think that there's any kind of shuttle that will take you to Waterloo from a Toronto-based airport. I had a nice chat with the driver who dropped me at my apartment - a rather quaint, older-looking building walking distance from the institute. Since I was famished and it was quite late in the evening, I decided to roam the neighborhood in search of food. I made my way to King Street which is essentially lined with all sorts of pubs, restaurants, and small shopping markets. There's a prevalence of pubs here. I guess the Canadians and the folks in the Waterloo-Kitchener area love their burgers and beer. Anyway, I had a great burger at an Irish pub and while I was eating outside on the patio I was entertained by a series of trivia questions being broadcast by the bartender. In all my life I have never scene an Irish pub so quiet! It was quite funny actually and a little disconcerting at the same time.
I spent the whole day today (07/08/08) at PI. I LOVE the building, the space and the layout. It is built in the modern architecture style with tall glass panes, pre-fab, steel and lots of concrete. My office which is on the third floor, overlooks a peaceful lake. The building is laid out on four floors with plenty of blackboards, lounge areas and espresso machines - your conversation essentials. Christopher Fuchs was kind enough to drive me and a couple of visitors to the Institute of Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo. It was a short drive and along the way Chris talked a little about his crazy ideas on the foundations of quantum mechanics. Later back at PI, Michael Skotiniotis (Barry Sander's student) gave a talk related to Spekken's recent work on a toy model for quantum states.
So far PI looks like an ideal place to think deeply on quantum information and interact with some very talented people. Tomorrow I will give my talk on how to encode a single logical qubit into six physical qubits.