Vatican hosts quantum science workshop to spread benefits of technology

Vatican hosts quantum science workshop to spread benefits of technology

As the Pontifical Academy of Sciences hosts a three-day workshop on quantum technology, Dr. Antia Lamas-Linares, a researcher with Amazon Web Services, describes the possibilities of the second quantum revolution.

By Christine Seuss & Stefanie Bross

The Pontifical Academy of Sciences has invited a host of researchers in the field of quantum mechanics for a three-day workshop in the Vatican, which runs from 30 November to 2 December.

According to Joachim von Braun, President of the Pontifical Academy, the goal is to harness technological innovation for the benefit of everyone, not simply developed nations and their citizens.

Around 100 years ago, important members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences represented the “spearhead of quantum physics,” noted Dr. von Braun with reference to Erwin Schrödinger, Max Planck, or Niels Bohr.

Albert Einstein, although not a member himself, also had friendly exchanges with many members of the Academy.

“So, with a certain pride,” he said, “we commemorate both a remembrance event and a conference that analyzes the achievements of quantum physics and quantum mechanics achieved so far today and illuminates the future prospects of quantum physics.”

In the following interview with Vatican News’ Stefanie Bross on the sidelines of the workshop, Dr. Antia Lamas-Linares, Lead of the Center for Quantum Networking at Amazon Web Services (AWS), explained that quantum technologies can be used in a wide variety of fields.

Q: Where do we encounter the principles of quantum physics in everyday life?

Quantum information is contained in all kinds of technologies, from computer chips and sensors to GPS, the navigation system in cars.

That said, we are now talking about a second quantum revolution, where some of the more complex and interesting, paradoxical aspects of quantum mechanics are being used to develop new technologies. For example, quantum computing, quantum communication and next-generation quantum sensors.

Q: What is the reason for your participation in the workshop? What brought you here?

I have been working on these topics for more than 20 years and have completed my PhD in quantum technology. I am an experimental physicist in quantum optics and have worked on many aspects of this discipline, both in academia and in national laboratories.

Now I lead the quantum communications division at Amazon, and that’s why I’m here. Basically, I’m here as a scientist and also as a representative of the industry, especially the big cloud providers.

Q: How do you see the Church’s interest in these technologies?

I was quite surprised when I received the invitation and found it very interesting that the Church is interested in these topics.

I thought it made sense to create a context and perhaps a forum for discussion about where these technologies are going, how they are affecting the world, what we can do, how we can all get involved and how we don’t leave certain countries or certain communities behind in these developments.

I think we will see here the impact of the Church taking an interest in this and having these forums.

Q: Could you elaborate on the revolution you are referring to? You spoke of a second quantum revolution. Could you elaborate on what this revolution is and how you think it will affect the future?

We normally talk about this revolution in a scientific and technical sense. We call it a revolution because it concerns certain aspects of quantum mechanics, such as entanglement. This is a quantum effect that is considered paradoxical, that is, it is one of the things that Einstein considered completely impossible and that could not be part of a scientific theory.

And now we don’t see them as problems or as philosophical problems, but we see them as resources, in the sense of how we can create them measurably, how we can manipulate them and how we can use them to build better sensors, better computers and so on.

As for your question about whether the revolution will spread to other areas, we don’t know, but if, as we believe, quantum computing and quantum communication will have an impact on the development of better chemicals or chemical processes or batteries and things like that, then of course the impact will expand.

Q: What was your first thought when you were invited to this conference?

My first thought was to read the email again. I was surprised that the Pontifical Academy of Sciences was organizing a workshop on a topic that is still pretty deep science.

It is very deep science, and it’s not maybe an obvious a topic for this Academy as some others, so I was excited to come and there’s an incredible set of participants, so I expect a lot from the following days.

Q: There are a lot of men taking part? What about the women; where are they?

It’s dominated by men, but it’s changing. But it’s an unfortunate reality that most conferences are still vast majority of men.

Again, that is changing, and I think this workshop is skewed towards more senior participants and that makes the imbalance more pronounced.

When you go to conferences that involve more graduate students and some of the younger generations, then you see a more balanced approach.

Still, we’re not quite there, but it’s progress. It’s definitely something the community is working towards.