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Visualizing quantum light
20 August, 2020
Agata Branczyk is a PSI Fellow at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, an Adjunct Associate Professor in Physics at the University of Waterloo, and an affiliate at the Institute for Quantum Computing. Her research is in the field of quantum optics, which gives her the opportunity to explore a wide variety of interests, ranging from entanglement to quantum information to quantum biology to black holes. Before coming to Waterloo, she was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Toronto as part of the DARPA Quantum Effects in Biological Environments program. She received her PhD at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.
It’s common to think of photons as “particles of light”. It turns out that photons are nothing like ordinary particles.
Not only do they have the familiar “quantum quirks” that electrons have (being able to be in a superposition of here and there, or being able to become entangled), but they are even more weird. Photons can be in superpositions of one, two, and three (or more) particles (electrons can’t). Photons also come in bizarre shapes and sizes—they can spread out across the whole universe.
These features make it difficult to conceptualize quantum light, so physicists had to develop new visualization tools to help. In this talk, I will share with you a popular visualization tool in Quantum Optics called the Wigner function. I’ll show you how to use it to represent various interesting states of quantum light that are generated in labs today. I’ll also give you a flavour for why it’s useful for developing intuition. I’ll try to do this without being very technical, and I promise pretty pictures.