Steve Simon’s Seminar

Yestarday the AMRC had the pleasure to host Professor Steve Simon from The Rudolf Peierls Centre for Theoretical Physics  (Oxford). Professor Simon gave a seminar titled “Topological Matter and Why You Should Be Interested”.

1 – ” Topologi… what ? “

Topological. To start, you should know that most of the physical properties of a real materials are dependent of its geometry (its shape).  As an example, Professor Simon mentioned that the electrical conductance of a piece of metal is dependent of its shape, as well as the exact contact points where the measure is realised. (See the following link for a more details). However, some matter can be set up in a particular phase, called “Topological”, for which all physical properties are independent of the details (such as the shape or the position of the contact points during measurement).  In addition, for “non-Abelian topological phases of matter” (a particular type of Topological phase), the ground state of the system is degenerate. Now, you have 2 grounds states (let me call them “0” and “1”), that you may use to build a Qubit. After an  introduction to “knot theory“, “knot invariant“, and their relations to “golf” and “scottish history”, Professor Simon explained, in an inspiring talk, how being able to construct and manipulate Qubits in topological phases opens the way to quantum information processing. (See Professor Simon’s page for more details)

2 – An old school presentation, no slides, just the essential.

Finally, let me mention that Professor Simon’s talk was “old school”. No slides, no fancy pictures or animations, just the essential on a white board. No doubt that the audience was captivated by his style.

It is clear that people understand much more when watching someone working his way to a result on a whiteboard. In a sense, we work with him towards the solution of a problem. On the other hand, when facing a presentation prepared on slides, we often don’t see the results coming. Most of the time it is popping out of nowhere and we have to hold on, in order to keep track and to stay focused.

It might be time to forget about slides and powerpoints. The best way to make your audience understand a reasoning is to take it, with you, for a ride.

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