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Quantum Country

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E-textbook on quantum computing written by Andy Matuschak and Michael Nielsen. The website describes itself as "A free introduction to quantum computing and quantum mechanics... Presented in a new mnemonic medium which makes it almost effortless to remember what you read". The topics covered include quantum circuits, quantum search, quantum teleportation, and a basic introduction to quantum mechanics.


Published January 1, 2019

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Andy Matuschak

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Displaying 1 - 2 of 2 reviews
Profile Image for Naveen Arun.
52 reviews
October 18, 2022
This e-textbook is a primer on quantum computing, and uses a spaced repetition system (SRS; i.e. built-in flashcards) to help you retain knowledge.

Pros: A lot of quantum computing concepts and formalisms make sense to me now. I went from not understanding quantum circuit diagrams to being able to reason about / construct my own, which is pretty good given that it only took a few hours of investment. (I've spent hours before trying to learn quantum computing and it never made any sense.) I also got a deeper understanding of some concepts I've only heard before as buzzwords, like quantum teleportation and quantum search. After going through the text, I feel pretty comfortable with moving on to heavier texts on quantum computing.

Cons: Some parts could have been explained better. For example, I really didn't know what was going on mathematically in the section on quantum search algorithms, even though I was able to understand the big picture.

The built-in flashcards include reminders to review a week, month, year, etc. in advance, so I'll update this review to reflect on the usefulness of the flashcard review.

Update (2022-10-18): I used the flashcard review reminders for about a month, but stopped doing the flashcards after that because I didn't feel like opening the email reminders. I was actually surprised that I ended up avoiding the reminders because flashcard review takes relatively little time/effort; because of this, I didn't expect to wind up in a situation where I didn't feel like doing review. As a user, I think part of the issue is that it's easy to lose motivation or change priorities over the course of a year or longer, so it doesn't seem like a "big deal" to skip a flashcard review a year later (unlike the first month, where motivation levels are high). I do think spaced repetition could work if someone is "immersed" in a spaced repetition ecosystem (for example, taking multiple classes, and checking a flashcard folder every day); for me it didn't work because I had to make a conscious decision to engage with the spaced repetition system a year after taking the course, which led to the situation of not "feeling like" opening the flashcards despite knowing that it's important for my learning.
Profile Image for snorwick.
34 reviews1 follower
January 25, 2023
I came across this research project on human memory and learning on the personal website of one of the authors, Andy Matuschak. If you have any interest in how memory works, limitations and solutions for personal knowledge storage, or just slick web design (I’m geeking out over bi-directional links rn)—check out his site.

“Quantum Country is a new kind of book. Its interface integrates powerful ideas from cognitive science to make memory a choice. This is important in a topic like quantum computing, which overwhelms many learners with unfamiliar concepts and notation.”

-Quantum Country

Regarding the project itself, we find a tech-enabled ebook promising improved retention and understanding of “all the basic principles of quantum computing and quantum mechanics, plus two important applications: the quantum search algorithm and quantum teleportation.” This is proposed through the leverage of an embedded Spaced Repetition System (SRS), in this case in-text conceptual flashcards which will be repeatedly presented to the willing reader on an exponentially spaced schedule. You read once and answer the questions, marking as you go those that you remembered and those that you forgot. In the following days, weeks, and months you will receive timed emails prompting to you to review the questions in hopes of curbing the “forgetting curve”, the theoretical rate at which an individual loses new information.

I completed the first essay, Quantum computing for the very curious, in a few hours and found the content to be very well presented. There is a tone of compassion for the busy, forgetful, or just plain attention deficient reader. You are invited to learn but not beaten over the head with the obligation. While I did not totally grok every concept, I feel curious and invested for the time being in the spaced reviews that will arrive in my inbox.

Note: This concept of using SRS in-text is being developed further by the author into a writing tool called Orbit. I’ve just skimmed the documentation but it looks like with Orbit one could write their own web article/e-book/lesson and embed the flash card functionality directly in-line with html. The spaced repetition is handled by Orbit and the reader is prompted to make an account so progress and retention can be tracked.

These types of experiments are exciting to me because they represent the ubiquitous human desire to learn, to understand. It is not a gimmick restricted to learning “boring” topics like quantum physics or Spanish vocab. These investigations and tools are an effort to augment the ways in which we as humans acquire and retain knowledge. How much further along could we be and how much faster can we get there if we stop trying to learn in systems that aren’t optimal for the way our brains are wired?
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