January, 2002 |

Mathematician Begs Physicists to Stop Demanding Rigorous Proofs |

FLOTSAM PARK, NJ—
Dr. Peter Furor is a noted pure mathematician at AT&T Research Labs. Recently, several clueless, pesky physicists grilled Dr. Furor mercilessly in the news group **sci.physics.research**. To shoo these annoying gnats away from his unruly hair, Dr. Furor finally admitted to them that, though the proof of his famous quantum algorithm looks fine to other pure mathematicians (enough for the mathematical community to award him everything but the kitchen sink in prizes), his algorithm has yet to be proven with the high level of rigour demanded by physicists.

Regarding the prizes: Who cares about lousy medals, let's cut to the chase with dollar amounts: MacArthur($290, 000), Nevalinna($15,000), Dickson($40,000) Godel($5,000). (Could it be that academic award committees copy each others homework and awards?......Nahh, can't be). Other primary contributors to the Furor algorithm have also been awarded substantial prizes: Dan Simon 5¢, Don Coppersmith 0¢.

The physicists at **sci.physics.research** pointed out that 7 years after the inception of Furor's algorithm in 1994, and many hundreds of quantum error correction papers later, nobody has yet explained in a satisfactory manner how to correct for a commonplace source of quantum error called reservoir noise. Oops.

As the newsgroup's chief moderator, John Baez, clearly put it: "When I last checked, these results only applied to errors of a certain special sort, which does not include all the errors to which quantum computers will actually be subject - which is why I don't believe quantum computers will ever be practical."

To this minor quibble, Dr. Furor replied: "Does a proof have to cover all possible cases in order to be valid?...Er, let me phrase this another way. Reservoir noise is not a fundamental Peano axiom, so I can exclude this unnecessarily broad axiom from my theory. As a second mathematical proof of my algorithm, note that some really, really, really smart people have tried to disprove my algorithm and have failed. QED."

The QComp Onion staff promises to keep our readers abreast of future developments in this story. If Furor's algorithm fails to live up to our gigantic expectations for it, we journalists have a standard way of dealing with such cases (see short story "The Greatest Man in the World", by James Thurber).

January, 2002 |

© 2002, Artiste |