At junior school in South West Spain, you remember being captivated by the planets when they had been re-scaled closer to the size of human heads and the space between them calibrated to a more domestic size. Stephen Hawking inspired you again at the age of fourteen and other reasons for going in to physics include the additional benefits of helping future generations and the challenge.
Using quantum effects we can answer new problems and solve others faster and you look at different candidates for making quantum computers. *
But, you say, quantum physics won’t explain the world; “it is so much less rich” - you look up and cast your gaze out through the cafe window towards the sunny day - “than our day to day experience”. When you do science you play a reductionist game and you shed this when you leave the office.
It seems like a an apt metaphor when several times you put your glasses on and take them off while we talk.
You know some artists, they seem chaotic and see this chaos as part of being creative. So much creativity comes from careful and logical thought. And it’s funny when you say; being the sort of person who is late is not necessarily helpful. Logic can give a richer experience and a key to greater creativity.
Through careful analysis we abstract ideas about the world and figure out that these patterns apply elsewhere in surprising places. We arrive at ideas beyond imagining, beyond what the chaotic mind could probably create.
Though all of our understanding is still possibly limited by the human mind.
You say that maybe physicists are more open-minded than most people. We are comfortable with not understanding. Nature is something that brings us peace. Not understanding gives security, much more than understanding. Every day you deal with trying to understand and you find peace in a humanistic way. These are prevalent characteristics of physicists.
This helps in your life. Problems demand routines. You think around them and try different things. Moving with the current instead of against it, applying a little force, small and clever corrections as you would in physics.
We go for lunch and sit on the grass near a tree, you opt for the sun and I settle in the shadow.
Human relations shape physics. People choose carefully who they work with according to respect, trust and liking them. I mention the relations I observe between supervisors and the supervised, a kind of tough love and you say yes it is tender relationship.
You are interested in scientist’s lives. Sensitivity and creativity in science can come together and we talk about Ehrenfrest and the persecuted Turing.
The beauty and aesthetic in formulae demands sensitivity. In this way physics is like art.
You saw some artwork recently that is pared down, one line, one colour with subtle articulation.
And you say, physics is valuable and seriously about the world. It is not X Factor.
David Herrera Martí is working on his PhD in Quantum Information
*There are options for physical implementation (quantum optics, superconductors, ion traps...the most promising) and options for theoretical models which can be combined (adiabatic, topological and measurement based).