FIGURE 7–1 Two of the profound societal revolutions of the 20th century are combining in the 21st century to create a new science with incredible technological implications.

tion that is inconceivable in our macroscopic world. These ideas are not just arcane academic curiosities, however, but provide the physical basis for chemistry, semiconductor electronics, x rays, and other ubiquitous elements of modern living.

Classical information science describes the storage, transmission, and manipulation of information that is encoded as bits—the ones and zeros of the binary number system. Computers, the Internet, and video games are all products of bitbased information science, and one reason these modern marvels work so well is the nearly complete absence of errors or ambiguities. Bit-based information must be virtually error-free, or else the exponential growth in complexity and speed of computing devices would eventually lead to chaos. Thus, the fundamental ambiguity of quantum mechanics and the fundamental certainty of information science seem totally at odds.

Quantum information changes all of that. A new scientific and technological revolution is emerging in the 21st century out of the new and intimate connection between quantum mechanics and information science. The processing of quantum information requires a physical system that obeys the laws of quantum mechanics. Quantum physics is prevalent in very small, isolated systems such as individual atoms and photons. Thus, AMO physical systems and techniques have taken the major role in the development of quantum information science, just as in the 20th century they were in the vanguard of the development of quantum mechanics. The new quantum information science promises to be as radical in its effect on human society as quantum physics and information science were individually in the last century. In the next 10 years, it will be one of the major driving forces in AMO physics.



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