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precision, all of which will require an increase in computing power. “We may be increasing t h e amoun t o f da t a t ha t we t a k e and t h e qua lity of the detectors. But we cannot expect our c ompu t i n g b u d g e t t o b e i n c r e a s e d b y a f a c t o r of 100,” says Carminati. “We are just going to have to f ind new sources of ver y fast computing, and quantum computing is a strong candidate.”
While he is clear that none of today’s quantum computers are anywhere near that mark, he believes that quantum computing will mature, partly thanks to investment by industry. “Whenever this happens, I think we have to be ready for it, to exploit it as best we can. We would be able to use a quantum c ompu t e r a c r o s s t h e b o a r d – f r om s i mu l a t i o n and detector construction, through to data analysis and computing speed-ups. It is very important to start developing our programs and sof tware now.”
Carminati points out that, were the quantum revolution to arrive, scientists would have to completely rewrite their codes, as he believes there is nothing like a universal quantum computer. “Can we have software that is agnostic of the specific kind of computing that we are using? We will have to develop a new angle, and so this is a large part of our research”. Last November Carminati organized the first ever workshop on quantum computing in high-energy physics at CERN, to get a head start on these very issues.
Outside the box All of this means that today’s physics gradua t e s w i l l ha v e a w i d e v a r i e t y o f o pp o r t un i t i e s when it comes to jobs across the fields. “A physicist is trained to creatively solve comp l e x p r o b l ems u s i n g ma t h ema t i c s , w i t h a l o t of thinking outside the box,” says Carminati. “We train so many physicists at CERN, and sometimes it is frustrating to see them leave, but we cannot keep everybody, this we know. Our consolation is knowing that we’re giving them a skillset that it is really applicable to many other research fields, and across industr y.”
Today, there is a global hunger for machine-learning and quantum-computing exper ts, with countries from the US to India and China looking to t rain and develop such expertise. Carminati has a very optimistic outlook for today’s graduates who may be considering one of these fields. “Try to have as much constructive fun as you can in doing your research, because it’s a fascinating job.”
Tushna Commissariat i s r ev iews and car eer s editor of Physics World
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