Dream a Little Dream: Quantum Computer Poetry for the Skeptics (Part II, The Classics)

Quantum poetry for the skeptics had long roots, and, also here, Peter Shor along with Jennifer Shor had a pioneering role. Volker Strassen’s response is the earliest poem known to me on the skeptics’ side. We will start with Jennifer and Peter’s poem and to Volker Strassen’s response and move on to other heroic quantum poem-writers Daniel Gottesman and John Preskill. (Here is a link to Part I in the series.)

Classic Quantum Poetry and Art

Jennifer and Peter Shor and Volker Strassen (before 1998)


Here is what Peter wrote:

” My wife and I wrote the following for a poetry contest by Science News. It didn’t win, so I posted it on my web page.

If computers that you build are quantum,
Then spies of all factions will want ’em.
Our codes will all fail,
And they’ll read our email,
Till we’ve crypto that’s quantum, and daunt ’em.

Jennifer and Peter Shor

When he introduced me at the 1998 International Congress of Mathematicians, Prof. Volker Strassen recited my limerick, and added a reply:

To read our E-mail, how mean
of the spies and their quantum machine;
Be comforted though,
they do not yet know
how to factorize twelve or fifteen.

Volker Strassen”

Early sonnet and poetic art work by Daniel Gottesman

(Here is the link Quantum Error Correction Sonnet.)

Quantum Error Correction Sonnet
By Daniel Gottesman

We cannot clone, perforce; instead, we split
Coherence to protect it from that wrong
That would destroy our valued quantum bit
And make our computation take too long.

Correct a flip and phase – that will suffice.
If in our code another error’s bred,
We simply measure it, then God plays dice,
Collapsing it to X or Y or Zed.

We start with noisy seven, nine, or five
And end with perfect one. To better spot
Those flaws we must avoid, we first must strive
To find which ones commute and which do not.

With group and eigenstate, we’ve learned to fix
Your quantum errors with our quantum tricks.

February 25, 1999

Above: Daniel’s artistic view of quantum error correction

 John Preskill

John is a prolific poet, I am not aware of poetry he wrote specifically for quantum computer skeptics (It’s  never too late for that, go John!), but he has several other quantum poems. (See also below for a poetic slogan by John.) His anyon poem

Anyon, Anyon (click for the full poem.)

Starts with

Anyon, anyon, where do you roam?
Braid for a while before you go home.

Here is a recent haiku by John

Qubits very cold
A dil fridge holds them gently
Mustn’t decohere


And a 2001 poem quantum cryptography. (The link contains some attempts to find rhymes for “Daniel Gottesman”.)

Quantum Cryptography

Alice said to her friend Eve,
“Why do you practice to deceive?
You know I need to talk to Bob.
Without that I won’t have a job.

“Bob can’t know where my note has been.
He thinks that you are listening in.
He wonders if it’s safe enough
For me to send him secret stuff.

“And Bob’s right not to trust you, Eve,
With quantum tricks stuffed up your sleeve.
But he thinks we can freeze you out,
With quantum tricks we’ve learned about.

“With quantum states, what we achieve
Defeats whatever you conceive.
So even Bob has to believe
That you can’t hear us, can you Eve?”

John Preskill, November 1, 2001


Poetic classic quantum slogans and quotes

John Preskill: slogan for quantum error correction (classic, 1997)

We can fight entanglement with entanglement

Daniel Gottesman: slogan for quantum error correction (1999, see sonnet above)

With group and eigenstate, we’ve learned to fix
Your quantum errors with our quantum tricks.

Scott Aaronson: (source)  (repeatedly in various forms since 2012 or so.)

The number one application of quantum computers is to disprove Gil Kalai who said they are impossible.

Gil Kalai (2013):

The importance of quantum error-correction to physics is similar to the importance of non-deterministic computation to the theory of computing. Their importance is that they cannot be achieved.


John Martinis (2014) (source)


ECH stands for “Experimentally Crazy Hard” and refers to monumental experimental physics achievements. MNP refers to “Maximum Nature Publications”.

(Martinis led the Sycamore experiment, and Nature is the journal where the sycamore paper appeared.)

David Deutsch

Quantum computation is a distinctively new way of harnessing nature. It will be the first technology that allows useful tasks to be performed in collaboration between parallel universes.

To me quantum computation is a new and deeper and better way to understand the laws of physics, and hence understanding physical reality as a whole.


Quantum computers as seen by Michel Dyakonov, myself, and Alexander Vlasov


Robert Alicki and I climbing the mountain of quantum computers “because it is not there” (2014).

This entry was posted in Art, Computer Science and Optimization, Controversies and debates, Music, Poetry, Quantum. Bookmark the permalink.

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