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Now, finally, she had the makings of a “very beautiful Ph. dissertation,” said Umesh Vazirani, her doctoral adviser at Berkeley. If you distrust an ordinary computer, you can, in theory, scrutinize every step of its computations for yourself.But quantum systems are fundamentally resistant to this kind of checking.
” asked Dorit Aharonov, a computer scientist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
During her second year of graduate school, Mahadev became captivated by this problem, for reasons even she doesn’t fully understand.
For one thing, their inner workings are incredibly complex: Writing down a description of the internal state of a computer with just a few hundred quantum bits (or “qubits”) would require a hard drive larger than the entire visible universe.
And even if you somehow had enough space to write down this description, there would be no way to get at it.
Given these constraints, computer scientists have long wondered whether it is possible for a quantum computer to provide any ironclad guarantee that it really has done what it claimed.
“Is the interaction between the quantum and the classical worlds strong enough so that a dialogue is possible?
“Urmila is just absolutely extraordinary in this sense,” he said.
Now, after eight years of graduate school, Mahadev has succeeded.
She has come up with an interactive protocol by which users with no quantum powers of their own can nevertheless employ cryptography to put a harness on a quantum computer and drive it wherever they want, with the certainty that the quantum computer is following their orders.
Mahadev’s approach, Vazirani said, gives the user “leverage that the computer just can’t shake off.” For a graduate student to achieve such a result as a solo effort is “pretty astounding,” Aaronson said.