Nicolas Gisin, award-winning physicist visits IIL

10 December 2015

On 20th November, students from the secondary Première and Terminale science-oriented classes attended a conference given by Professor Nicolas Gisin from the University of Geneva, eminent physicist and winner of the prestigious Marcel Benoist prize. He came to speak about his current research on the theme of “quantum teleportation “.

This meeting shed particular light on a theme often perceived as very abstract in the physics/chemistry programme: quantum mechanics.

In a Lewis Carroll style, professor Gisin took students to the other side of the mirror, into the confusing but fascinating world of elementary particules. In such a universe, century-held beliefs are no longer taken for granted to be true. In a humerous way, the distinguished professor encouraged our students to concentrate on learning as much as possible from their science lessons so as to be able to question their teachers about firmly held ideas. In fact, science should be an eternal questioning of models we believe to be true.


Before addressing actual quantum complexities, Professor Gisin reassured the students by saying that we owe some of the greatest scientific revolutions to geniuses who do not fully explain their own theories. To put them at ease, he quoted a statement from Richard Feynman: “I think I can say without a doubt that nobody understands quantum mechanics.” Finally, and with great energy, he presented the principles of quantum teleportation, which are a far cry from the ideas conveyed by a certain Mr. Spock a few decades ago.

The only disappointment coming from questions asked by the audience, teleportation does not allow one to move instantly to any point in the universe, because no actual matter can be teleported, only a state or structure. Moreover, the procedure incurs on average a 10% loss, which represents roughly an arm or leg during the course of the trip …