It's not every day you can find a link between Rugby League and quantum computing. For most people, these two things are on the opposite side of the spectrum. For Professor David Reilly, they go hand in hand as his two number one passions.
"I born and raised in Matraville, the heart of South Sydney country in many ways," said Reilly.
"I played in the junior competition alongside people who went on to play for Souths. Duncan McRae went to my school, Paul McNicholas, I played with Shannon Donato.
For me, it represents something about childhood, family...the culture of Australia.
Working out of the depths of Sydney University's laboratories, Reilly's versatility helps him juggle two positions with the Microsoft Corporation and the University of Sydney, where he is the Principal Researcher and Director of Microsoft Quantum. His goal is straightforward, he wants to develop the world's first Quantum Computer.
But what actually is a quantum computer, and how will it help shape the future?
"It's a machine that exploits new physics, that is of the nanoscale, one billionth of a meter. Down there at the level of electrons and atoms and molecules the laws of physics are different from what they are in the everyday world of people and chairs and tables," said Reilly.
"The physics that switch on at the nanoscale (Quantum Physics) enables us to do entirely different things, to be able to process information for certain types of problems in a way that allows us to solve questions that otherwise wouldn't be able to be solved with the computers that we have today."
As the Principal Researcher and Director of Microsoft Quantum, Reilly's approach to his recruitment runs a similar line to that of Rugby League when it comes to bringing together a successful team.
"For me, I look at what it takes to be successful in sport both at the level of the players, the coaching staff, management and the rest of it," said Reilly.
"It's a pretty interesting enterprise to look at from the point of view from what I do. I've got a large team of people here, scientists, professors, engineers, technical people. Recognising though that any big project whether it be quantum computing or winning the Grand Final takes clear definition of goals and milestones. It requires tenacity and training, trust, teamwork, discipline, and ability to commit.
"Seeing all of that emerge in that sporting context for me is really interesting to look at and think how those skills and those broad level of attributes that you see developed into today's elite athletes mirror many of the big things that I look for in people that work in quantum computing.
The similarities between sport and science don't end there. In a rapidly changing environment, the outcome is dependent on the race - who finishes first - whether that be scorching the opposition on the way to the try line, or having that 'eureka' moment before anyone else.
For that reason alone we posed the question: What will we see first? Souths 22nd Premiership or the next quantum computer?
His response was one that would fill all Souths supporters and quantum physicists alike with a great sense of optimism.
"I think we'll see a quantum computer that outperforms the previous quantum computer, every time we hit the Grand Final," smiled Reilly.
Well said Professor.
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