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Canadian quantum mechanics pioneer wins Israeli Wolf Prize

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Université de Montréal (UdeM) Professor Gilles Brassard will share Israel’s 2018 Wolf Prize in physics, with his American collaborator Prof. Charles Bennett of the IBM Research Center, for the founding and development of quantum cryptography and quantum teleportation, the Wolf Foundation announced on Feb. 12.

Brassard and Bennett are among nine winners of five prizes for the sciences and music worth US$100,000 ($126,000) each. They will be given the awards by the Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem in May.

Sometimes referred to as Israel’s Nobel Prize, the Wolf Prize was established by the Wolf Foundation in 1978, to recognize international scientists and artists who have made outstanding contributions to humanity.

The Wolf Prize is the latest in a long list of awards that Brassard has received for his pioneering work in quantum information science, a rapidly expanding field that was once on the margins of physics.

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These include winning the Gerhard Herzberg Gold Medal, Canada’s highest scientific honour, in 2010, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian Society for Computer Science in 2016.

Brassard studies how quantum mechanics can be used to improve information processing.

“I shall continue pushing the frontiers of knowledge by investigating novel uses of quantum mechanics for the enhancement of our information-processing capabilities, covering the whole range of research from pure theory to actual experiments,” he stated on his website. “Conversely, I wish to establish the central role of information in physics by redesigning the entire foundations of quantum mechanics in the light of quantum information.”

He has been a professor at UdeM for 30 years and a Canada research chair since 2001.

Brassard has been working with Bennett for even longer than that. In 1984, they invented a protocol called BB84 for quantum cryptography, or the use of quantum mechanics to code information, which is said to be unbreakable.