Category Archives: science


I’ve run my first quantum computation!

Since I was working on the latest iteration of classical computer manufacturing techniques (EUV lithography), everyone asked me what were my thought on the future of Moore’s law, and what did I think about quantum computing. To the first question, I could mumble things about transistor size and the fact that we’re getting awfully close to the atomic size; to the latter question… I just had to go figure out myself!

Back in April, I’ve invited Irfan Siddiqi (, founding director of the brand new Center for Quantum Coherent Science, and his postdocs at Berkeley lab to give a talk to postdocs, and last the lab announced the first 45-qubits quantum simulations on the NERSC… things are going VERY fast! (read the Quantum manifesto)

Kevin O'Brien on multiplexing qubit readouts

Kevin O’Brien on multiplexing qubit readouts

This is thanks to Rigetti, a full-stack quantum computer startup based in Berkeley (Wired, IEEE Spectrum).

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Energy Dominance

To say the least, the mood is not at its peak at the lab…

We have a new Secretary of Energy – Rick Perry (R), former governor of Texas –  who doesn’t seem to care much about science (e.g. he believe it’s fine to question climate change; at least there’s someone to tell him no, it’s not) and who is now on a crusade to ensure #energydominance, a concept that I try to comprehend, but really can’t.

Now see his incredible op-ed in Washington Times (the black mirror of the New York Post, I guess:), Paving the path to U.S. energy dominance:

Mr. Trump wants America to utilize our abundant domestic energy resources and technological innovations for good, both at home and abroad. […] An energy-dominant America will export to markets around the world, increasing our global leadership and influence. Becoming energy dominant means that we are getting government out of the way so that we can share our energy wealth with developing nations. For years, Washington stood in the way of our energy dominance. That changes now.

Holy cow! That is a genius strategy!
Oh wait… what strategy? Selling coal and gas that will be worthless in three years?

Here’s what previous Secretary Moniz has to say:

Moniz: […] With some colleagues, we’re starting up a small non-profit in the energy space and this was also a question that we intended to look at.

However, a review of this type also needs to look at the emerging technologies. For example, the utility in Tucson recently announced a long-term, a 20-year purchase-power agreement for solar energy plus storage at a pretty attractive—stunning, actually in my view—price. They quoted less than 4.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, including the storage.

Madrigal: Wow. [In Arizona, the average cost of electricity in March 2017 was 9.7 cents per kilowatt-hour. Electricity prices vary around the nation, but the U.S. average was 10.3 cents per kilowatt-hour in March 2017.]

Meanwhile, the office of science at the White House is now empty. zero. nicht. kaput.

It is quite incredible to hear that, while a mere six most ago it was populated by the finest people I know, like my (extended) friend Maya Shankar


Oh boy, the second half of the year starts even better than the first half.

Open Access

My article for the Berkeley Science Review on Open Access is out, and it is available here (for free, of course!): Science to the people.

“Astronomers and physicists have been sharing pre-prints since before the web existed,” says Alberto Pepe, founder of the authoring and pre-printing platform Authorea. “Pre-prints are an effective (and fully legal) way to make open access a reality in all scholarly fields.” Within hours, articles are available online, and scientists can interact with the author, leaving comments and feedback. Importantly, submission, storage, and access are all free. The pre-printing model ensures that an author’s work is visible and properly indexed by a number of tools, such as Google Scholar.

Special thanks to Rachael Samberg from thee UC Library and Alberto Pepe from Authorea.

Things seems to change quickly in that field, thanks to institutional efforts:

Here’s a list of resources that I’ve compiled from the talk by Laurence Bianchini from MyScienceWork when I invited at LBL, and a piece written by Nils Zimmerman on Open Access at LBNL: Open Access publishing at Berkeley Lab.

Farewell to BPEP!

Yesterday, I’ve organized my last event with the Berkeley Postdoc Entrepreneurial Program (, an association dedicated to helping young researchers turning their science into companies that can benefit the economy directly. I served for about two years as the liaison for Berkeley Lab, and helped organize over a dozen events, directly responsible for four of them (on government funding, intellectual property, the art of pitch, and lastly a job fair.)

BPEP team with UC Berkeley vice-chancellor for reasearch, Paul Alivisatos

BPEP team with UC Berkeley vice-chancellor for research, Paul Alivisatos

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I’ve got millenial problems but you ain’t one


 “We’re the future. And you don’t belong in it. Because we’re beyond you, and naturally, that makes you feel kind of bad. You have this deep-down feeling that you don’t matter anymore. You should be glad, though…  Do you want your kids’ world to be a step above yours? Isn’t that what we’re all doing? So, doesn’t it follow that if you’re a good parent, and your kids evolve, and are smarter than you, they’re gonna make you feel kind of dumb? So if you feel stupid around young people, things are going good.”

(Louie CK, video via Vulture (broken)view on facebook)

against “old guard”:

There needs to be a ‘maximum wage’ vs minimum wage ; instead of paying young kids with no family obligations $200,000.00 + a year to sit at Philz Coffee all day and play the latest Candy Crush’ mind chewing gum  game with their Lucy Liu wanna be’s, at beck’n call . (SFWeekly, comments added to print)

puzzled by generational drives:

I dropped out of college when I was 18. To move to Los Angeles. To become a rock star. It’s true. […] And lo, it was glorious.

Why share all this silliness? Because there appears to be a strange parallel afoot. Because I recently found myself entranced by Nellie Bowles’ terrific profile over in California Sunday magazine, a tale of the new hordes of “lost boys” of San Francisco, all these naïve, clean-cut, mostly white teenaged computer whizzes from affluent families who are dropping out of college (and, increasingly, high school) to move to San Francisco.

They’re here to code, of course. To found companies. To singe their brains with a million lame logos. Which is to say, not for the fame, or the girls, or the fun drugs, or the free love (different era, but still).

They’re here for the money.
Attention teen dropouts racing to SF: The tech bubble is lying to you
– Mark Morford

or working for funny companies :

The Greylock partners hear a lot of pitches from companies with cute one-word names and bright logos (Meerkat, Sprig, Nextdoor, Vessel, Operator) that aim at “disrupting” some existing set of economic arrangements. At least in conversation, nobody is safe: education, health-care delivery, media, national currencies. – The Network Man (The New Yorker)


Living in the Bay Area has a lots of perks, notably the climate and the people who live here– some are driven, and some maybe too much.

The Silicon Valley became fertile and successful when entrepreneurs started bringing hardcore scientific advances to the masses, with companies such as Fairchild Semiconductors, or innovative technologies, with companies such as Xerox and its Palo Alto Research Center.

Nowadays, the silicon in the valley is mostly gone (I often joke that among my friends living in the Silicon Valley, I am the only one actually working on silicon… yet I don’t live in the valley:), and tech companies that have nothing to do with actual τέχνη. Yet the dreams of technology to save us all are still pretty alive. But it seems that it all has to do with hubris, or PR at best, and it is hurting actual science and those who make it.

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China on the rise

Maybe the info was lost on all the news that trump the attention, but China has been involved with serious business in science recently. From a stage where the industry would produce with high-efficiency but with minor innovation. The country are now paving the way forward.

A few recent examples this year are pretty telling. The first one would be the launch of a set of satellites designed to study quantum encryption over long distances. Apparently, this project was proposed by leading German scientist Anton Zeilinger to the European Union, but never got through (update Oct 28th, 2016 : Now there’s a event a 2000km quantum link project underway in China. Wow!)

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Berkeley Lab Postdoc Association

Dear reader,

I haven’t been very communicative lately, for I was kept busy by a very cool new venture : the birth of the Berkeley Lab Postdoc Association. The new association is meant to bring together over a thousand postdocs at Berkeley Lab, and provide them with support, career advice and bring feedback to the lab management about issues encountered by postdocs.logo_blpaNow that the association is alive and well (see the blog), I can tell a little about its story.

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Wanted : science tools for the digital age

The internet may still be less than 10,000-days old, it still fails to deliver for scientists.

By empowering institutions to efficiently track down the number of publications, pushing even further the drive to publish many half-baked ideas and follow the hype instead of long-term research. It is true that it had never been as simple to get access to a paper and makes life easier on many aspects– collaboration often just requires sending an email, but new hurdles have appeared, and these should be removed.05e2e400dd1165870b3787a527e4e753Here is a bunch of ideas on how to use the new digital tools we have at hand to make research easier and thus more efficient, and a limited overview of what we have now. Continue reading

Bertrand Russell, on Free Will

Happy New year !

The notion of free will is a very interesting one, and as we are living in a time where people are talking of robot intelligence and where people are still adamant about religion and what they call or perceive as “freedom”, I think it’s only fair to remind this brilliant excerpt from “Religion and Science” by the late Bertrand Russell, that among all the great things he wrote struck me with its clarity and depth.

russell_color(yeah, I’m bootstrapping on Maria Popova’s Brainpickings !)

Psychology and physiology, in so far as they bear upon the question of free will, tend to make it improbable. Work on internal secretions, increased knowledge of function of different part of the brain, Pavlov’s investigations of conditioned reflexes, and the psycho-analytic study of the effects of repressed memories and desires, have all contributed to the discovery of causal laws governing mental phenomena. None of them, of course, have disproved the possibility of free will, but the have made it highly probable that, if uncaused volitions do ever occur, they are very rare.

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