editing chapter 5.1
okay this is what i have so far, and now i have to put the characters into the conversation.
11/25 keep going over the conversation, trying to make it intelligible while kurt is busy trying to make it impressionistic and nathan is trying to pretend he understands. i’ve been almost hearing it, and probably dreamed about it last night and don’t have any recall, but i’m working on the idea until it manifests.
“Those folks I was with the other day want me to build them a game engine to simulate a quantum world, but a classical computer program isn’t good enough for what they want to do. I’ve actually been waiting for a good excuse to build a quantum computer, because then I can create a quantum programming language and beat absolutely everyone to the punch. Over a videogame – that’ll show them. Not a banking application, not encryption, but gaming. Hah.”
Kurt whipped out a notebook and showed Nathan his schematics. Nathan didn’t understand any of it. “But with current technology, you’d need shitloads of money and a kickass lab to do that. It’s a lot like their chances of making a hit game with no budget. Nathan looked disappointed. I can’t build a quantum computer in the back of a van, you know.” But he wasn’t certain. “Right now you need a cryostat, which means your business end has to be encased in liquid helium and laser cooled, inside a thermos bottle, inside another thermos bottle, and cryocooled to withing 1 millikelvin of absolute zero. And that would be what?” He paused for Nathan to answer.
“Um…” Nathan felt stupid.
“Just shy of minus 460F. At that temperature, everything stops moving except for quantum particles. That’s where you manipulate whatever you’ve chosen as your qubit until it reaches a state of superposition and you can measure it. For instance, an optical/mechanical oscillator that transforms light into vibration and back again so fast that it’s in two places at once. But you have to keep the whole thing supercold or you’ll lose your superconducting state, and your qubits will decohere.
“If it warms up even a little bit, the coolant evaporates and your vessel explodes.”
“A quantum computer sounds like a lot of trouble.”
“Yes, but. We need it. Because we can’t get much smaller with the current circuitry, but mainly because we’ve got substantially more complex problems to solve, and we’ve reached the limits of how much we can do with just ones and zeros. Duality was fine when we thought the world existed separately from us, out there, following its own invariable rules and never minding us humans. But duality is just a habit, one that limits you to binary opposites, where you end up thinking beauty is good and ugly is bad.” Kurt noticed a figure skulking behind the trash bins. “So someone who looks like that is judged at first sight to be disreputable and probably criminal, definitely a drug addict and probably a pervert.”
Nathan turned around to see. “Oh, that’s Caroline,” he said. “She hangs out here like you do.”
“Hmph. She looks like a cop.”
“She’s okay.” Nathan waved and Kurt nodded. Caroline scowled and moved away.
“With quantum computing you’re not limited to binary opposites. It’s not black or white, it’s both black and white and technicolor, too. Calculations run in parallel, simultaneously instead of one at a time. You can ask different kinds of questions, and there’s a greater range of answers.
so how are you going to do it? i haven’t quite decided. i know a dozen people who are working on quantum computers, and each one goes about it differently. one’s using quantum optical fields in curved spacetime. another’s trying to put synthetic DNAzymes on a fluorescent substrate in a constantly swirling liquid bath. that’d be cool. sounds like real magic, doesn’t it? and then there’s molecular switches made out of sticky nanoplates that not assemble themselves. most of these guys are sticking with existing silicon transistors because it’s an established technology, which i don’t think is going to work in the long run. fancy magic nano wonders embedded on silicon chips which get less efficient the smaller they get. other materials and approaches are better imho.
what are you going to do? i’m interested in wetware. what? synthesized brains, neural nets. the brain’s neurons show lots of quantum effects, wavefunction collapse at the presynaptic axons, proteins act as qubits. consciousness comes out of the electrical resonance between the thalamus and cortex, modulated by dopamine and seratonin and the like.
neural nets are the shit. You grow them. they make copies of themselves. they self-install, customize, correct themselves, and learn. they’re redundant and parallel. neurons only fire a thousand times a second, but millions of them fire at once. they’re not like classical computers that keep the calculator separate from the numbers – all the shit gets stored in the energy cloud. the main problem with wetware is thermal noise, which causes decoherence. and at the moment, the best way around decoherence is to cool everything to absolute zero.
you’re going to grow frankenstein’s brain on ice. can i see it?
it won’t look like a brain. it won’t even be visible until it’s embedded on a chip and assembled onto a component.
you haven’t shown me what you’re working on. he was immediately embarrassed to have asked that, kurt stared down at his schematic. it went against his instincts. i thought i had, he mumbled. i don’t understand it. don’t worry, feynman says that’s a good sign. he unfolded it and smoothed it with his hand and they bent over Kurt’s quantum computer diagram, a tangle of lines, squiggles and numbered labels, with notes scribbled all around the margins. nathan didn’t understand any more of it than before, but at least Kurt put names on the squiggles, and he could look up the names later.
the quantum computer inventors kurt knew were all very jealous and snippy with each other, they all put each other’s ideas down, ridiculed each other’s lineage, and indulged in endless petty arguments. nobody was working to a standard, nobody collaborated. nobody told the truth, or said how things were going, or even hinted at anything patentable. and the hype – it was like the way edison’s big box discount approach won out over tesla’s geekier, more advanced vision – the team with the hottest packaging would win the big bucks, maybe with a steampunk star wars look. while kurt built a computer in his van.
the more i think about it, the more i wonder if i couldn’t build it in the back of my van. if i didn’t need all the cryonics, if i could make a room temperature superconducting magnet, room temperature superconducting wires, room temperature qubits. i’d need frictionless flow, low ppb resistance. what if i could make a virtual cryostat using graphene and a high magnetic field. the key is isolation, damping out the noise and preventing decoherence. if i could find another way to shield the qubits from interference.
graphene single atom thick sheets, hard as diamond, stronger than steel. light, strong, transparent, flexible, conductive.
why build it flat? because they’ve always done it that way. oh. but you’re right, that’s classical thinking, laying everything out on a piece of paper when it makes so much more sense to crumple it up into a ball. keep decoherence at bay by creating a compact field.
as substrate for dna supercoils, toroidal or plectonemous or both. a braid of quantum knots really stable. i could make a braided toroid, with a mobius flip. mobius strip is array of knots, each knot is qubit, functions as transistors or storage. a superconducting graphene ribbon with one edge. with semiconducting areas that follow the contours of the knots. where does it start? it doesn’t. where does it end? it doesn’t end. it’s a strip in a circle that’s really just one side that keeps going, and it’s only got one edge. infinite quantum loop, infinite qubits in small space. how many molecules to make mobius strip? have to make one before i can count it. quanton, wavicle. dope w/metal conducting, doped w/reducer (electron donor) ferromagnetic. superconducting mobius strip semiconducting layers = orgone, powered by surrounding tesla field made of magnetic, generate scalar waves. woo
what to use as a shell? shielded, radiates heat, what gets thru nothing means no communication. how to do that if nothing gets thru. tunelling information channel sends and receive thru shell, oscillating something on a chip outside the kernel linked to everything else.
he’s an electrical engineer and a programmer. he taught himself to program, and dropped out of engineering school after a fight with the head of the department over some point of orthodoxy kurt just couldn’t stomach. there’s nothing mystical about quantum mechanics except among the woo physicists, the tinfoil hat phds. then why mention it? because kurt is very interested in woo, and feels he’s about to make a breakthru.
Caroline came up carrying a box of exfood as Kurt left. “Is he bothering you, kid? Because if he’s trying to sell you drugs, or come on to you…” She opened the box and poked the salads with her finger. “Well, you just let me know and I’ll take care of him.”
failed relationship, used again. bitter and self-absorbed. comes over and talks to nathan as he’s sitting there doing his homework. has the same exfood deal kurt does. doesn’t like kurt. whines all the time to nathan. alludes to her life in law enforcement, swaggers but no details. complains about her love life, wants to shock nathan by being butch lesbian but he’s okay with it. he’s just glad she’s not going to come on to him, tho he’s not entirely sure because he catches her leering at him.