From computational complexity to quantum mechanics

Michael Segal in Nautilus:

ScreenHunter_1035 Feb. 28 19.09Scott Aaronson, theoretical computer scientist and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), runs a popular blog called “Shtetl-Optimized.” Which is a curious title, given its focus on computational complexity. When I asked Aaronson about the connection, he replied that he saw himself as someone designed for a different era—like, for instance, the 19th-century Jewish village, or shtetl, from which he descended, and where studying was, for many, the central activity of life.

Completing his undergraduate studies at age 18, and earning tenure at MIT at age 31, Aaronson has certainly made study a central part of his own life. But it’s not just computer science that draws his interest. His book, Quantum Computing Since Democritus, touches on consciousness, free will, and time travel. A recent discussion on his blog about gender roles in science has drawn 609 comments as of this writing. And he does not shy away from public debate, having become one of the most persistent critics of claims made by startup D-Wave Systems that they are selling operational quantum computers. Why not just turn a blind eye and let those claims slide? “This is just not who I am,” says Aaronson.

More here.