How not to lie about Quantum Mechanics?

Writing for the general public about science news is hard. ArsTech has an article where they accuse many news organizations of deliberately lying in their science coverage, and discuss how they can get away with it do to double standards.

As a scientist with interest in informing the public of my research, are there any guidelines to follow when talking to the press? I want them to see them as allies, but most of the science news are so bad I can’t help but hating them.

I’ve thought much about how to describe my research to family and friends, and haven’t found any good and concise way to do it. More specifically, can any one suggest any good, simple, cocktail-party style one-liners to explain what is quantum mechanics and quantum computing, but that doesn’t make me feel like I’m lying? If I read again the phrase “what Einstein called spooky action at a distance” I might vomit.

Any ideas?

When Men fly from danger, it is natural for them to run farther than they need.
-The Mischiefs that ought justly to be apprehended from a Whig-goverment

Author: minustwofish

I am a quantum physicist.

3 thoughts on “How not to lie about Quantum Mechanics?”

  1. It is hard and I don’t know how to solve it. The main problem being that most people just aren’t interested enough in the subject to want to tackle the subtleties of why it is interesting, which is fair enough because it is not their job to care about it. However, if you remove the subtleties, it becomes unclear why quantum information is a paradigm shift or (worse) you end up talking about parallel universes, which they are (annoyingly) bound to pick up on as the main point.

    I once gave a very long winded description of quantum computing/crypto research to the mother of a friend of mine, making sure to capture the subtleties of how factoring is in NP and thought to be hard on classical computers, and how quantum crypto is more secure than traditional crypto, etc. After all that she just said, “Ah, so it’s about making faster computers”. Now I just say “it’s about making faster computers” to anyone unless it is clear that they are not just asking out of politeness.


  2. I find myself doing the same, saying “we are trying to use quantum effects to build a faster computer”. I’m afraid that a lot of times it sounds like I might as well work for Microsoft. Every now and then someone with genuine interest asks “what are quantum effects?”. I would like an answer that
    1) is short, but peaks their interest to learn more
    2) doesn’t sounds like new age crap.
    So far, I don’t have anything good.


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