Some of the finest minds in the state recently explained to me the importance of a mostly unnoticed line in the state of Illinois’ new capital projects plan.
University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer, Argonne National Laboratory Director Paul Kearns and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Provost Andreas Cangellaris touted new state government funding for a program that could be “even bigger than supercomputing” (Zimmer) and a “paradigm shift” in technology (Cangellaris).
What is this marvel? Quantum physics. It’s the study of subatomic particles that don’t behave in the way we understand “normal” physics. The particles do things like exist in two places simultaneously, move through what we would consider solid objects and change their form when observed. Google it. It’ll blow your mind.
The idea is to try to harness these tiny particles to do stuff like create vastly improved computing systems or design totally new types of pharmaceuticals or unbreakable encryption.
In 2017, the University of Chicago invested $100 million and partnered with Argonne and Fermilab on a project called the Chicago Quantum Exchange.
While the University of Illinois may be better known for its supercomputing and internet breakthroughs, which led to pretty much everything digital that we take for granted today, the institution has been studying quantum physics since the early 1950s. It joined the exchange in October.
President Donald Trump signed a bill in December providing over a billion dollars for quantum research. The military is especially concerned about China, which successfully conducted a quantum encryption experiment and is reportedly spending billions on the technology.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker has been involved with high-tech development for years in the private sector, and he says he’s familiar with quantum physics. He also knew about U of C’s $100 million investment and its search for more partners. So he decided
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