Stupid Qubit 002: Will Britain be first to build a really useful quantum computer?

Stupid Qubit – Quantum Computing for the Clueless/002

A Brexit special¹ of sorts, as we find out about NQIT, the UK’s Government-supported effort to create a quantum computer – specifically, how they’re hoping to make world-beating machines out of ions levitating in a vacuum. We speak to Star Trek fan Professor Winfried Hensinger at the University of Sussex about his proposed warp-speed machine, as well as Professor Simon Benjamin and Dr Vera Schäfer at the University of Oxford. They’re well under way with the UK’s Q20:20 engine, a near-term machine that aims to connect hundreds of qubits using particles of light.

We also find out why Microsoft wants to tie knots in spacetime with its topological qubits and what a no-deal Brexit could mean for our quantum ambitions [spoiler: it’s not good].


  • Quantum News – a puzzle solved; a new way to get round noise; forging perfect nanodiamonds; IBM Q heads to France; Details of how to get a FREE QUBIT in our great qubit giveaway!
  • The Stupid Qubit Adiabatic Award
  • Quantum Questions on simulated universes and the potential uses of neutrinos
  • A song about ion traps
  • Misplaced jingoism

¹more in the sense of ‘special needs’

There’s also a ‘visually enhanced’ version of the episode up on YouTube, here, for those who prefer their podcasts with trippy sound-reactive graphics and irritating scrolling captions.

Conceived, written, produced and presented by Jim Mortleman and Stuart Houghton ©2019

Stupid Qubit 002 – LINKS

The scientists and their projects

NQIT home page – a great, clearly-explained site with lots of info on UK quantum computing efforts

Professor Simon Benjamin’s bio page at NQIT

Professor Winfried Hensinger’s bio page at the University of Sussex, and a video of a public lecture he gave on quantum computing in 2017

Vera Schäfer’s bio page at the University of Oxford

Microsoft’s quantum website

Professor Leo Kouwenhoven’s page at TU Delft

Microsoft’s quantum experts explain their topological qubits to an audience in London back in 2017 (video)

Quantum News

Adiabatic Award

After our wholly unwarranted and inaccurate pee-taking, we thought we’d stick in a link to Sam Mugel’s well-explained blog on quantum tech.

Quantum Questions

Home page of Ray Jayawardhana, author of “Neutrino Hunters”, and an article on his thoughts about the nippy uncontainable particles from Business Insider.


Stupid Qubit 001: What the photonic muck is a quantum computer?

Stupid Qubit – Quantum Computing for the Clueless/001

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All over the world, scientists are busy trying to build quantum computers. What the photonic muck is a quantum computer? And why do you need dental floss to make one? How come it looks like a steampunk chandelier? And sounds like an armoured Morris dancer on a punctured spacehopper? Do they really work in parallel universes? And what’s all this about quantum supremacy? Does it mean we’ll soon have to submit to an army of quantum robot overlords?

In this episode, we answer all these questions and more with the help of top quantum physicists including Dr Jerry Chow of IBM, Professor John Martinis of Google and Professor Simon Benjamin of Oxford University.

And we drop in on The Pub Landlord, Al Murray, to see if he has any pressing questions about this exciting new technology…

You can find links to all the people and technologies we mention in the episode here.

File under #science #technology #comedy

Conceived, written, produced and presented by Jim Mortleman and Stuart Houghton ©2018


Stupid Qubit 001 – LINKS

We hope you enjoyed our first full episode and are now feeling a little less clueless about quantum computing. If so, you might want to learn a bit more about the people and technologies we introduced this time. So, here are some handy links to the quantum scientists, technologists and other stuff we talked about. We still have loads to cover (we’ve not even started on how you program these machines and what they can do today) so stay tuned for episode 2 – sometime in the autumn (we hope).

The scientists and their projects

IBM’s Dr Jerry Chow’s wikipedia page plus his TED Talk introducing quantum computing

Dr Stefan Filipp (also of IBM).

Link to the IBM Q website, where you can even have a go at programming it if you’re so inclined. And, for the rest of you, here’s a video of it making its weird noises.

History of IBM on wikipedia

Professor John Martinis (PDF bio) and his group’s home page at UCSB, plus one of his talks on YouTube

Google AI homepage

Google blog post on launch of Bristlecone quantum processor

Professor Simon Benjamin’s bio on the NQIT site at Oxford University…

…And here’s the home page of NQIT, Britain’s big national project to build a quantum computer which we’ll be covering in episode 2.

Quantum Questions

Thanks again to Al Murray – The Pub Landlord for being our first Quantum Questionner . Here’s his official website. Go and see him or buy some of his stuff – he’s very funny.

Quantum physics

Schrodinger’s cat video explanation

Entanglement video explanation

ScienceNews blog on the Top ten Interpretations of quantum physics

Clip of Feynman saying nobody understands quantum  physics, plus his famous 1964 Cornell Messenger lectures introducing the key concepts in detail and proving that he, for one, did. They get fairly technical  as you get into the meat of them, but the intro’s fairly accessible – he was a wonderful explainer and populariser of the  field, as these lectures (as well as this classic BBC Horizon programme) show.

And if Feynman’s lectures sound a bit too scary, why not start with this book instead.

Other bits and bobs we mentioned…

Summary of Feynman’s pronouncements on quantum computing

Was the Infinite Improbability Drive the first quantum computer in fiction?

Wikipedia entry on adiabatic quantum computing. No, we still don’t understand it.

D-Wave Systems

Fujitsu Digital Annealer

Stephanie Wehner’s TEDxVienna Talk on The Quantum Internet  

Wikipedia entry on superconducting quantum computing

Rigetti Computing home page, plus recent blog post by its founder on the company’s forthcoming 128-qubit chip.

Quantum computing at Intel

Alibaba’s quantum computing efforts outlined in a press release and FT news story (requires registration)

Wikipedia entry on quantum supremacy/advantage.


Stupid Qubit Episode 0 – Preview

Welcome to Stupid Qubit – Quantum Computing for the Clueless. (Which, as far as quantum computing goes, is pretty much everyone.) Don’t worry – we’re here to make it all crystal clear. Although the crystal might exist in multiple dimensions. Or something. Anyway, here’s a preview of our podcast, coming this summer.

You can also subscribe on iTunes here, or search for us on your favourite podcast portal.

Quantum computing for the clueless

COMING SOON… “Stupid Qubit – Quantum Computing for the Clueless”

An irreverent podcast demystifying current developments in quantum computing for a curious but confused general audience. Presenters Jim & Stu quiz luminaries in the field and attempt to find the answer to questions such as:

• WTF is a quantum computer and how do you build one?
• How do you program one and will they run games in parallel universes?
• When will we get our self-aware, matter-manipulating quantum phones?