No-one could ever say that running CQT is boring. Indeed, if I were to write down some of my daily conversations then, by now, I would have collected enough material for a sizeable best seller. It is amazing how many interesting and talented people we have, and I'm not only talking about their scientific reputations. Want to know the latest on climate change, lock picking, rebels in Bengal, 232-bar pillar valves for diving, or where to find “Hello Kitty” stuff in Taiwan? Do not bother to surf the web, just pop into our Quantum Cafe. Our 219 or so CQTians from 31 countries all over the world form an eclectic mix that is anything but dull. I am glad it is this way. But how do others perceive us?
In 2011, we had the first external review of the Centre. The report of the International Review Panel (summarised in our 2011 annual report) is very encouraging. We seem to be internationally recognised for the quality of our research and for our truly cosmopolitan, egalitarian, and informal atmosphere. I am happy that the Centre is a place where authorities can be challenged and science is given priority over rules and regulations. Yes, we should be proud with what we have achieved in our first four years but, at the same time, we should put things into perspective and be aware that this is only the beginning. No research institution of any lasting impact and significance was ever established in four years. If we really want to succeed we have to give ourselves a few more years to consolidate, and consolidations are usually much harder than the initial build ups. But hey, we can do it! The first four years have demonstrated this very clearly; there is so much potential in our small community. So, let us buckle up and carry on.
Performance reviews aside, this was an eventful year. We hosted the massive conference QIP 2011 and a number of excellent colloquia, public events, exhibitions, and school talks. There were days, especially soon after QIP, when the Quantum Cafe had probably the highest concentration of brainpower on the planet. We owe thanks to our Auntie Swee for her exemplary dedication to keeping the place clean, tidy and stocked with coffee to fuel the brains. Her daily efforts have made sure our premises always look presentable and welcoming to the various international delegations passing by.
On the domestic side, Christian and Valerio have been promoted to Professor with tenure at NUS, Kuldip was the recipient of the Commendation Medal, Dzmitry and Alex have finally moved into their newly refurbished labs, a frequency comb has been installed, and the sound of drilling and hammering has moved from the second to the sixth floor. As our science knows no borders, we have extended our research facilities to laboratories on the campus of the Nanyang Technological University, where Rainer and his team investigate interactions of superconducting microstructures with atoms. Throughout the year, our research results filled the pages of many academic journals and appeared in popular magazines and websites. Most recently a couple of new and pretty abstract ideas, cooked up by the theorists, have found their way to experimental labs. There can be no more joking that our experimentalists want to use our theorists in the same way a drunken man uses lamp-posts, that is, for support rather than illumination. It is such a promising sign. We'll be able to tell you more about this next year.
Many of our researchers and our outreach team, yet again, did an excellent job demonstrating to the world that quantum physics is relevant and that every literate person can appreciate its profound beauty. In the past year we hosted two artists-in-residence who, inspired by the many world interpretation of quantum theory, turned an empty room into a temporary studio and set up an installation with references to multiple existences. Quantum theory is not exactly easy, but it has been demonstrated at CQT that even high school students can write an excellent textbook introducing the rudiments of quantum theory to their colleagues. To be sure, for this to happen it helps to have Valerio around.
Outreach is part of our mission and we take it very seriously, simply because it is important to explain to the taxpayers that without the curiosity-driven understanding of how atoms behave, how they interact with each other, and how they interact with light, the world we live in would be profoundly different. It is estimated that about 30 per cent of the US gross national product stems from inventions based on quantum physics, from lasers through microprocessors to mobile phones. It is becoming clear that quantum theory is no longer an esoteric topic to be learned in graduate school, but a necessity for many areas of research such as chemistry, communication technologies, engineering, and even biology. So, you see, never confuse quantum physicists with quants. We did not mess up the world, we improved it!
Artur Ekert is CQT's founding Director. He is also the Lee Kong Chian Centennial Professor at the National University of Singapore and the Professor of Quantum Physics at the Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford, UK. He is one of the pioneers of quantum cryptography. He has worked, communicated with and advised several companies and government agencies.
His current research extends over most aspects of information processing in quantum-mechanical systems. He is a recipient of several awards, including the 1995 Maxwell Medal and Prize by the Institute of Physics and the 2007 Royal Society Hughes Medal. In his non-academic life he is an avid scuba diver.