Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Quantum of Knowledge

Canada's Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, earned something of a standing ovation for being able to state a basic description of the difference between a classical computer and a quantum computer. In a Gizmodo article on the event, Jennifer Ouellette expressed dismay that this isn't common knowledge.

"Is there really any excuse," she asked, "not to know that light and matter have both particle and wave aspects; that the more you know about a particle’s position, the less you know about its momentum (a.k.a. the Uncertainty Principle); or the alive-and-dead superposition of states at the heart of the Schroedinger’s Cat paradox?"

Her explanation was less than charitable. "Yet the vast majority of the population can’t be bothered, avoiding most science like the plague —hard sciences like physics and math in particular."

We are better off, I think, when we understand that people do not know the things that we know because that knowledge is a luxury, rather than ascribing incurious natures to those around us. It is better that we advocate for improving people's lives such that they have the time and the resources to devote to the acquisition of knowledge for its own sake, than simply expect that knowledge that we view as being cheap or free will be perceived as such by everyone.

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