Obituary in memory of Stephen Wiesner associated scientist of Tel Aviv Quantum Group
August 18, 2021
Stephen (Steve) Wiesner, the intellectual father of quantum information theory, died in Jerusalem, Aug 12, 2021. He started the field in 1970 as we can learn from his collaborator in the old days, Charles Bennett.
I had a privilege to work with Steve and discuss physics and world problems many times, mainly in the end of the twentieth century, when I succeeded to arrange for him a part-time affiliation at the Physics Department of Tel Aviv University.
Steve was a genius. I could see it from his remarks in our conversations, when he showed exceptional physical intuition and wide knowledge of physics. Our discussions resulted in two papers: PRL on quantum gambling, and Rapid communication in PRA with quantum error prevention scheme with just four particles.
Unfortunately, Steve had difficulties presenting his ideas. I remember arranging a talk for him in Tel Aviv University about his idea of using quantum computers for simulation. There was a good audience, but it did not work: he started speaking Hebrew, but even when he switched to English, it was not understandable.
He wrote a short paper with his ideas and showed it to me with the intention of submitting it to arXiv. I feel guilty until today. I am a moderator in quant-ph, and it was clear for me that the paper is not written in a reasonable format. I told Steve to revise it, which he never did. Others publish this idea before him. Today, arguably, this ability of quantum computers is considered as their main advantage.
I remember inviting Steve to a Master Thesis Defence of my student (Ariel Danan) on practical quantum bit commitment. This was the first time he heard about my idea on which I and my student worked for a year, but he made a comment which dramatically improved the method.
During the last decades, Steve occasionally visited me in Tel Aviv. He was always full of ideas. How to send rockets by supplying energy through beaming a strong laser on it. How efficiently produce lime. Many ideas were not just theoretical, he built the prototypes of his inventions. He made lime in his garden in Tekoa. He made a “perpetuum mobile”, the one which does not contradict physical laws, by taking heat from the environment: a wheel placed partly in water. At the time of the tunnels threat by Hamas, he built a seismograph for discovering tunnels. He brought his device to Tel Aviv and detected me walking tenths meters from him.
He did not visit me in the last year, I miss him a lot. He was a very warm person with very strong principles. Today's quantum revolution and I, personally, owe him a lot.
Prof. Lev Vaidman,
The Alex Maguy-Glass Chair in Physics of Complex Systems,
Physics Department, Tel Aviv University.