Sciences. Quantitative plan for France, for what?

Don’t even think about watching the train go by. On Thursday, Emmanuel Macron, on the Saclay Plateau near Paris, presented a plan to invest 1.8 billion euros in quantum technologies.

Goal? The President of the Republic stated, “to be at least among the top three in the world,” without excluding even “a stronger ambition.” In other words, beat the pawn in the US or China, who are leading the field.

What is the quantum?

It is an infinitely small realm: the universe of atoms and particles, and at least its paradoxical properties are described in quantum physics. This system was born at the beginning of the twentieth century, when we wanted to clarify the nature of light: a wave or a particle?

Taking the theories of physicist Max Planck (who introduced the idea of ​​”quantum” to designate elementary energy particles), Einstein revolutionized the world by explaining that light is a wave and a particle.

This double face indicates that the particles have a double behavior and can be in several states at the same time. An electron, for example, can be in many places at the same time … at least until we try to notice it, forcing it to “choose” a location in space.

Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger designed a famous thought experiment using A. A live and dead cat. Two particles can also behave like a single particle: even if they are spread thousands of kilometers apart, they will change their states together. This is the famous phenomenon Quantum entanglement.

In short, the quantum world is the strange world. It is strange that some scientists who expected its anomalies, thinking of Einstein, questioned the truth of some of the properties.

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A prototype quantum computer from IBM, unveiled last year at CES in Las Vegas. JML Pictures

what is the point?

Quantum physics has long been largely theoretical, and with good reason. Carrying out manipulations and measurements in an extremely small world is a daunting task and the techniques needed to do so are modern.

It took 80 years for the quantum entanglement predicted by Einstein to be confirmed conclusively in 2015. The first applications are beginning to emerge: “Today we are at a stage where manipulations are taking place in the laboratory in the modeling phase,” Marco sums up. Erman, Vice President in Charge of Science at Thales.

The French company hopes to commercialize the first quantum sensors within a few years. One app among many strange properties of quantum physics.

One of the most important remains the development of the quantum computer, which is capable of moving today’s supercomputers into the abacus category (see this article for detailed explanations). Several prototypes are already in place.

Another area of ​​application is cryptography: by exploiting the properties of quantum entanglement, it is possible to create messages that are completely tamper-proof (just reading them can corrupt data). The United States laid the groundwork for a quantum internet last summer. And China, another country that invests heavily in this sector, conducted a quantum transfer between a satellite and a ground station last year.

In short, the apps are revolutionary. And they’re not limited to computers or telecommunications – researchers have found that if geckos can climb a perfectly smooth wall, it’s because Using certain properties of quantum physics.

What does the French investment plan expect?

According to the Elysee, public loans are expected to decrease in volume from 60 million euros to 200 million euros per year, which would place France in third place in the world, after China and the United States. In addition to 1050 million euros from the state, the moratorium includes European appropriations (200 million euros) and allocations from the private sector (550 million).

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The French five-year plan.

In detail, it plans to allocate around 800 million euros for computers alone, whether it is the first machines (simulated and partly quantitative, 350 million euros) or those that will emerge in the long term. (Complete quantum computers, 430 million euros). Emmanuel Macron intends France to become “the first country to equip itself with a complete prototype of general-purpose quantum computers”.

The remaining envelopes will go to sensors (250 million euros), post-quantum encryption (150 million euros), quantum communications (320 million euros) and related technologies that allow the construction of quantum equipment. (Refrigeration science, for example, 300 million euros).

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