Breakout Price | Montreal Researcher Gilles Brassard Honored

Cryptographer Gilles Brassard, from the University of Montreal, received a prestigious scientific award on Thursday. The Breakthrough Award recognizes his work on quantum cryptography and quantum teleportation.

Posted on September 24

Mathieu Perreault

Mathieu Perreault
Press

San Juan Beach

Mr. Brassard shares his award with three other specialists in quantum physics. It is a field of physics that studies and uses the particular behavior of atoms and elementary particles. The other three winners are long-time collaborators. One of them is the physicist Charles Bennett, who works for IBM in the United States. “We met at a conference in Puerto Rico in 1979,” says Bennett. He had presented a theoretical concept in cryptography, an Oracle database accessible to all, but impossible to modify. I had proposed a similar communication that had been rejected. We chatted on the beach, and I shared with him the ideas of an old college friend, Stephen Wiesner, about an impossible-to-counterfeit digital currency. This led us in 1984 to propose the first quantum cryptography protocol. »


PHOTO FROM THE EUREKALERT WEBSITE

physicist charles bennett

The Nobel?

In 2018, Mr. Brassard and Mr. Bennett received the Wolf Prize for Physics, awarded by an Israeli foundation. As it is the most prestigious award in the field after the Nobel, the articles of the time mentioned its attribution to the research duo. Do you expect to receive the Nobel before you retire? “The Nobel is in ten days, so I won’t stop breathing,” says Mr. Brassard. Half of the winners of the Wolf in Physics received the Nobel soon after. In our case, four years have already passed. Mr. Bennett for his part lamented that at most three people can receive a Nobel Prize in one discipline each year. “It is not adapted to current science, which is done in teams. Mr. Brassard is 67 years old and started college at age 13.

quantum cryptography

Quantum cryptography is more secure than classical cryptography, which guarantees the security of communications and transactions using very complicated mathematical problems to solve. But it has not yet established itself in the trade. “With quantum cryptography, you know right away if you’ve been spied on, because looking at a photon changes it,” says Bennett. But there hasn’t been much commercial success in quantum cryptography yet. »

china ahead

The most advanced country in the world in quantum cryptography is China, according to Mr. Brassard. “They have created a quantum cryptography backbone that goes from Shanghai to Beijing and they are experimenting with quantum cryptography with a satellite. Europe is also thinking about it, but in North America it is not taken seriously. The problem is that when we have quantum computers we will be able to decipher everything that has been done in the past with classical cryptography. Our enemies store all the information on the Internet and will be able to read all the secrets when the quantum computer becomes a reality. »

quantum teleportation

Charles Bennett is responsible for the use of the term “teleportation”, which he regrets. “It impresses the imagination, but it gives the false impression that we will be able to teleport thanks to our invention,” says Mr. Bennett. This is not the case, quantum teleportation will be used to communicate between quantum computers without going through fiber optics. It will avoid the problems of optical fiber, where there are losses when you exceed a few hundred kilometers. »

facebook and google

The five Breakthrough Awards were created in 2012 by tech entrepreneurs, including the founders of Facebook and Google. Each award is tied to a $3 million scholarship. “The Wolf Prize is more prestigious, but for some reason I don’t understand, there has been a lot more media interest in the Breakthrough Prize,” says Brassard.

More information

  • 1 billion US
    Annual US Government Investments in Quantum Computing

    FONT : american scientist

    25 billion dollars
    China’s total investment in quantum computing for 30 years

    FONT : american scientist

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