Q2B 2021

This is a quick post to let people know that the 2021 Q2B (Quantum 2 Business) conference will be this December 7-9 at the Santa Clara Convention Center. (Full disclosure: Q2B is hosted by QC Ware, Inc., to which I’m the scientific adviser.) Barring a dramatic rise in cases or the like, I’m planning to attend to do my Ask-Me-Anything session, in what’s become an annual tradition. Notably, this will be my first in-person conference, and in fact my first professional travel of any kind, since before covid shut down the US in late March 2020. I hope to see many of you there! And if you won’t be at Q2B, but you’ll be in the Bay Area and would like to meet otherwise, let me know and we’ll try to work something out.

20 Responses to “Q2B 2021”

  1. none Says:

    > Notably, this will be my first in-person conference, and in fact my first professional travel of any kind, since before covid shut down the US in late March 2020.

    This is scary. Vaccines no longer do much to prevent infection. They do help a lot in preventing *severe* infections, but even mild infections have nasty long term sequelae, cognitive and memory dysfunctions being the most relevant for most of us here.

    Do you know any CS theorists, mathematicians, etc. who have recovered from covid and report feeling mentally completely back to normal? I know of one chess grandmaster (GM Irina Krush) who had a fairly bad infection early in the pandemic and has won some online speed chess tournaments since then, but I don’t know if she has said anything about her recovery, and I don’t know if she has played in any classical tournaments (i.e. several hours per game rather than a few minutes per game) since then. For various reasons, online tournaments are usually blitz or rapid, both being much faster than classical and therefore needing less prolonged concentration.

    There is a big in-person grandmaster tournament going on right now (FIDE Grand Swiss in Riga, Latvia), and several of the top players withdrew because of an infection spike in the area. The chief arbiter also is currently in quarantine because he tested positive. I haven’t heard of any issues with the participating players though.

    I’m still avoiding travel, crowds of humans, and indoor spaces to the extent practical.

  2. Scott Says:

    none #1: I wish I had a good answer. I do know a fair number of colleagues who’ve had covid. They reported that it sucked but did not report long-term cognitive impairment, although it’s not like I systematically followed up, and I’m not sure how much they’d want to talk about it if they had. In any case, I’m in contact with two immune-compromised parents, so I definitely do not wish to get even mild covid. But at this point the question is: how long? If covid will be endemic, and if the mutations will always stay a step ahead of the blankfaces with their excruciatingly drawn-out vaccine approval process, then does that mean we’re going to spend the rest of our lives this way?

    I’m surrounded by, on one side, people traveling, meeting, dining, and partying as if covid is 100% over, and on the other, people (like you?) who are still in full lockdown, and both sides probably judge me and think I’m crazy. The one thing I feel confident about is that, whatever is my policy, it had better be responsive to changes in the actual case numbers. Whatever I was willing to do at 200,000 cases per day, I ought to be willing to do more at 100,000 and more still at 50,000 … and then less when the case numbers go back up.

  3. asdf Says:

    Scott, I’m not in anything like full lockdown, just like I’m not full-on vegetarian, but (for completely unrelated reasons) I’ve cut way back on meat in my diet, and am doing some things to minimize covid exposure (mainly avoiding indoor crowds and wearing an N95 mask when I do things like in-store shopping). I’m not an extravert, so avoiding crowds is something of a blessing. The other stuff is at most a mild inconvenience so I don’t mind keeping it up forever if it comes to that.

    I do think vaccinating schoolkids is likely to help some. Kids don’t get sick much from covid (somehow it doesn’t affect them much), but they do get infected, carry high viral loads, and then infect their families. That is likely to be a significant component of the current spread.

    If you can get a vaccine booster because of your immunity issues, go for it.

    One thing I want to do but have so far been too lazy, is build or buy a CO2 monitor (a real one, the sensor module starts around $50, not one of the cheap ones that instead uses volatile gases as a proxy for CO2). The idea is that CO2 above background in an indoor space is from air that someone else exhaled, so more CO2 => more likelihood of airborne virus. Then just nope out of anyplace that’s over say 1000 ppm or maybe some lower amount.

    The other thing (a really important thing imho) that can help the pandemic is official acknowledgement that the virus is airborne. There has been tremendous resistance to that, maybe because it will require a lot of hospital and other protocols to change, i.e. cost money and/or inhibit money movement (but muh economy!) Policymakers seem to care about that much more than they care about illness or fatalities.

    This scares me, from Wikipedia article about the 1918 Spanish flu:

    A 2006 study in the Journal of Political Economy found that “cohorts in utero during the pandemic displayed reduced educational attainment, increased rates of physical disability, lower income, lower socioeconomic status, and higher transfer payments received compared with other birth cohorts.”[257] A 2018 study found that the pandemic reduced educational attainment in populations.[258] The flu has also been linked to the outbreak of encephalitis lethargica in the 1920s.[259]

    Survivors faced an elevated mortality risk. Some survivors did not fully recover from physiological condition(s).[260]

    Too many people think covid infection is binary (low chance of fatality and otherwise fine), but that is way overoptimistic imho.

  4. fred Says:

    The covid vaccines don’t create a barrier against sars-cov-2 entering the body (unlike for some other virus/vaccines), the type of defense is only triggered in deep tissues, after the virus has started to somewhat replicate significantly already (that’s why lots of ppl vaccinated do get tested positive with not much side effects).

    And, even without considering mutations, if someone freshly vaccinated (or boosted) catches covid, the vaccine cuts the probability of serious side effect/death by 10 and also the probability of transmitting the disease by 10.
    But about 6 months after a vaccination, while the probability of serious side effect is still about 10 times smaller (from ~90% to ~80%), the probability of transmitting the disease is now only cut by 50%, which means that vaccinated people are about as contagious as non-vaccinated people, and this is why herd immunity seems impossible to achieve, in other words, the virus will never be extinguished.
    But it’s also still possible that eventually a less lethal variant of sars-cov-2 will take over, more similar to the common flu (not to say that the common flu is totally harmless, we had tons of dangerous variants in every decades, but we just never keep track of it as closely as we did with covid).

  5. 1Zer0 Says:

    none #1

    “Do you know any CS theorists, mathematicians, etc. who have recovered from covid and report feeling mentally completely back to normal?”

    I can only speak for myself: I got it at the end of last year, but mostly asymptomatic. Can’t report any decrease in mental abilities since this year was my most productive overall, especially during summer.

    @Scott will you be attending any mathematics or tech related conferences in europe in the foreseeable future, let’s say 1-2 years? I believe to remember that I once saw a video where you held a talk about black holes & computation in swiss.

  6. Scott Says:

    1Zer0 #5: If covid conditions allow, then I hope to be at the Solvay Conference in Brussels in May 2022. First, though, I need to renew my passport! 😀

  7. 1Zer0 Says:

    Scott #6

    I see, so that’s where the iconic picture with all the leading physicists in the early 20th century was actually shot. I assume I do not have the physics understanding necessary in order to profit from attending this conference. Keep us updated if you visit a conference more leaning towards classical CS / logic in europe!

    You might be well advised to renew your passport rather sooner than later, otherwise you could have an additional reason to dislike the blankface(s) who wont get it processed in time :- ).

  8. OhMyGoodness Says:

    asdf#3

    The transmission of viruses solely through liquid droplets from sneezing and coughing is one of the great myths of the medical community. If you look at the data for evaporation rates of exhalation size droplets, settling time in even still air for virus scale particles, and viability of many viruses on dry surfaces to then establish new viable colony forming units, you will see the problem with the medical community’s established science. Data from a recent South African study supports that Tuberculosis is also spread through exhalation aerosols.

    The settling time of established science from true to false can be extremely long.

  9. OhMyGoodness Says:

    Scott#2
    Many mutations (variants) were in circulation prior to the start of vaccinations including the Delta variant. It is just the fact that the vaccines not highly effective against the Delta variant and so even the vaccinated hosted replicating virus that then allowed for new copy mutations. Once the vaccines were in place it just provided the Delta variant a survival advantage to supplant the Alpha as the predominant variant.

    I check the Israeli press occasionally and see they are far along with the third shot. About 7% of serious and critical covid patients right now have had the third shot (maybe all immunocompromised I don’t know). It will be interesting to see if the third shot results in longer more effective immune response than the previous shots have provided. The first shot was considered a major victory, as was the second shot, and so as is reasonable now more caution to declare the third shot a major victory.

    I saw a study indicating a very long list of species that Covid effectively infects, so a reservoir there for ongoing mutations also that could be even more resistant to existing vaccines.

  10. DR Says:

    I realize I am in a minority thinking this way, but maybe there’s no reason to think things will ever go back to exactly the way they used to be pre-covid.

    Assuming that they will seems like a psychological bias.

    People with a greater appetite for risk than I have, tend to disagree with me.

    Let us see if the new anti-viral turns out really great. It seems like 1000 people are dying daily even now in America, from covid. That is non-trivial. And I think Colorado hospitals are overflowing even now.

    I myself am taking more risk than I used to before, but I think it is irrational. 🙂

  11. Pedro Says:

    asdf #3
    >I’m not an extravert, so avoiding crowds is something of a blessing.

    Surely your low utility of social gatherings plays a large role in your decision of continuing to avoid them due to covid. What if you were someone with a very large utility of social gatherings? To me this is what has played out over covid pretty much — people who don’t like to go outside arguing in favor of lockdows on one hand, and people who feel significantly depressed if they stay inside for a week arguing against them on the other hand.

    My impression is that with the way things are right now I don’t feel guilty about going to bars and meeting friends (then again, I place a high utility on that). First and foremost because of large scale vaccination, drops in cases and deaths etc., and secondly because the full-blown lockdown seems like mostly a charade anyway: I (and everyone else who isn’t lucky enough to have a full home office job) have to go to work anyway, for which I take an often very packed train and walk through large crowds in train and subway stations, have lunch next to people (who obviously can’t wear masks during it), etc. etc. If on top of that I go out to a bar, seems like a drop in the bucket to me.

  12. Greg Kuperberg Says:

    The situation for vaccinated people is not as dire as comment #1 suggests. Vaccination might not do all that much to prevent PCR-detectable infection, but it reduces the rate of symptomatic infection by something like a factor of 6 even after much of a year has gone by. Infection with no symptoms is functionally equivalent to no infection at all.

  13. DR Says:

    Comment #12:
    The reason I’m concerned about even an asymptomatic case, is “Long Covid”. If that is proven to be rare or not serious, that would be nice to know.

  14. NotJudging Says:

    I am not judging the commenters on this post, but it’s interesting to note that the overall attitude here is apparently much more risk-adverse than in the general population.

    If that is indicative of a similar bias (relative to the general population) in “nerds” (rather than a selection bias etc.), I wonder what is the root of this difference in attitudes.
    After all what has brought us together is topics like CS and quantum mechanics, not a shared attitude towards risk.

    You could argue nerds are just reading the map better and everyone should be more afraid, but unlike early in the pandemic it seems everyone is operating on nearly identical data / predictions at this point. And besides, the psychological component of this bias seems on the surface obviously significant.

    I do also wonder how much of a role that played in nerds anticipating the negative aspects of the pandemic much more accurately than the general population early on. I don’t think that was the deciding factor, but it may have played a part. A broken clock is right twice a day and a constant risk adverse attitude is going to be correct every so often.

  15. DR Says:

    Comment #14 NotJudging:
    “A broken clock is right twice a day and a constant risk adverse attitude is going to be correct every so often.”

    I see myself described here :).

    However, what do you think of my comment #10? I’d love to know.

  16. Gerard Says:

    DR #10 and #15

    > I myself am taking more risk than I used to before, but I think it is irrational.

    One way of assessing that would be to compare your degree of risk-aversion to covid with your risk aversion to other activities. For example I suspect (but to be clear I have not actually done the analysis) that the risk of getting severe covid for a young, healthy, vaccinated person is probably much less then say the risk of being severely injured or killed in a car accident.

    So for instance someone who has stopped going to the grocery store because of covid but was fine with driving there pre-covid is likely not acting rationally.

  17. Job Says:

    Why are Jupyter notebooks such a “standard” for quantum computing?

    I guess they’re ok for experimentation, if confusing. E.g. is this a doc, is it a simulator, is it read only, does this block affect that block, etc.

    Personally, I like circuit simulators better for experimentation. And for anything more involved, just use python?

    To be honest, i think these notebooks just get in the way, especially on AWS where you have to “start” and “stop” a notebook (it’s probably running a VM?).

    I know R. Feynman uses QC Ware’s forge tool (Jupyter based). But what kind of tools do you use?

  18. Marshal Says:

    Hi Professor Aaronson, I learned about your blog from my quantum computing class and I am loving it! I would love to somehow subscribe to your blog and get notified when you post something new, but could not figure out how. Would you happen to have a subscription feature for your blog? If so, could you kindly instruct me on how to do it? Thanks in advance.

  19. Aprdz Says:

    Would you consider teaching computer programming or quantum physics at the new university of Austin to help academics opposed to woke cancel culture

  20. wolfgang Says:

    Scott,

    what do you think about IBM’s announcement(s) and their roadmap, which suggests that they will have a chip with > 1000 qbits by 2023/24 with (some) error correction ?

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