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Imperial physicist chosen to deliver 2008 Royal Society lecture

Physics

Researcher based in Institute for Mathematical Sciences picked for prestigious speech<em> - News<em>

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By Danielle Reeves
Thursday 28 June 2007

Martin PlenioProfessor Martin Plenio   from Imperial's Department of Physics has been chosen to deliver the Royal Society's 2008 Clifford Paterson Lecture. Professor Plenio will speak about the opportunities emerging from his group's research into information theory and quantum physics, and he will explain how fundamental research being carried out now is paving the way for the 'quantum computers' and quantum communication devices of the future.

Quantum computing and communication devices, which have not yet been successfully created on a large scale, will rely on scientists harnessing quantum behaviour to create systems that can far exceed the speed and processing capabilities of current silicon-based computers. The term 'quantum behaviour' is used to describe a system which is governed by the laws of quantum mechanics, as opposed to being governed by the classical laws of physics such as mechanics, gravity and Einstein's general theory of relativity. Quantum mechanics comes into play when systems are the size of atoms or smaller, because on this very small scale the conventional laws of mechanics no longer apply.

The Clifford Paterson Lecture is given annually on any aspect of engineering. The General Electric Company Limited endowed the lecture in 1975 in honour of Clifford Paterson, who undertook the creation of the GEC Research Laboratories in 1919. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1942. The annual lecture which is aimed at early-mid stage career scientists is accompanied by a GBP 500 prize.

Professor Plenio commented: "Although the broad remit of the lecture is 'engineering', quite a large number of previous speakers have been physicists too, and the research I do could well be termed 'quantum engineering' and certainly bridges the gap between these two disciplines.

"I am delighted to have been chosen to deliver this lecture as it will give me the opportunity to focus on the practical manipulation of quantum information, which – along with more abstract mathematics – makes up the bulk of what I do."

Professor Plenio explained that lectures such as this give researchers the important opportunity to communicate the very latest ideas emerging in science: "I hope that communicating the work I’m doing in this way may inspire more young scientists to consider a career in research. What’s more I often find that when I have to re-examine my work to prepare for a talk like this, it often provokes a new and deeper understanding of the topic for me."

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