Edward Farhi

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Edward Farhi
Alma materBronx Science
Brandeis University
Harvard University
Scientific career
Doctoral advisorHoward Georgi
Doctoral studentsHaralambos Panagopoulos
Jose Wudka
Angela Olinto
Michel Carreau
Edi Haylo
Jeffrey Isaacson
Andrew Lue
Noah Graham
James McBride
Andrew Childs
Vishesh Khemani
Stephen Jordan
Daniel Nagaj
David Gosset
Andrew Lutomirski
Beni Yoshida
Shelbey Kimmel Hess
Cedric Lin
Han-Hsuan Lin
Adam Bookatz
Elton Zhu

Edward Farhi is a Principal Scientist at Google working on quantum computation. In 2018 he retired from his position as the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was the Director of the Center for Theoretical Physics at MIT from 2004 until 2016. He made contributions to particle physics, general relativity and astroparticle physics before turning to his current interest, quantum computation. For a recent interview see here.


Edward (Eddie) Farhi attended the Bronx High School of Science and obtained his B.A. and M.A. in physics at Brandeis University before getting his Ph.D. in 1978 from Harvard University under the supervision of Howard Georgi. He was then on the staff at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center and at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland before coming to MIT, where he joined the faculty in 1982. At MIT, he taught undergraduate courses in quantum mechanics and special relativity as well as freshman physics. At the graduate level he taught quantum mechanics, quantum field theory, particle physics and general relativity. In July 2004, he was appointed the Director of MIT's Center for Theoretical Physics. He supervised many graduate students who have had successful careers.[1]


Farhi was trained as a theoretical particle physicist but has also worked on astrophysics, general relativity, and the foundations of quantum mechanics. His present interest is the theory of quantum computation.

As a graduate student, Farhi invented the jet variable "Thrust" which is used today at the Large Hadron Collider to describe how particles in high energy accelerator collisions come out in collimated streams.[2] He then worked with Leonard Susskind on grand unified theories with electro-weak dynamical symmetry breaking. At CERN, he and Larry Abbott proposed an (almost viable) model in which quarks, leptons, and massive gauge bosons are composite.[3] At MIT, with Robert Jaffe, he worked out many of the properties of a possibly stable super dense form of matter called ``Strange Matter" [4] and with Charles Alcock and Angela Olinto he studied the properties of ``Strange Stars",[5] compact objects made of strange matter. His interest then shifted to general relativity and he and Alan Guth studied the classical and quantum prospects of creating a new inflationary universe in a laboratory today.[6] He and Guth, along with Sean Carroll, showed how building a time machine would require resources beyond what could ever be possible to obtain.[7]

Since the late '90's, Farhi has been studying how to use quantum mechanics to gain algorithmic speedup in solving problems that are difficult for conventional computers. He and Sam Gutmann pioneered the continuous time Hamiltonian based approach to quantum computation [8] which is an alternative to the conventional gate model. He and Gutmann then proposed the idea of designing algorithms based on quantum walks, which was used to demonstrate the power of quantum computation over classical.[9] They, along with Jeffrey Goldstone and Michael Sipser, introduced the idea of quantum computation by adiabatic evolution[10] which generated much interest in the quantum computing community. For example, the D-Wave machine is designed to run the quantum adiabatic algorithm. In 2007, Farhi, Goldstone and Gutmann showed, using quantum walks, that a quantum computer can determine who wins a game faster than a classical computer. [11] In 2010, he along with Peter Shor and others at MIT introduced a scheme for Quantum Money [12] which so far has resisted attack. In 2014 Farhi, Goldstone and Gutmann introduced the Quantum Approximate Optimization Algorithm (QAOA), a novel quantum algorithm for finding approximate solutions to combinatorial search problems.[13] The QAOA is viewed as one of the best candidates to run on Noisy Intermediate Scale Quantum devices which are coming online in the near future.

Farhi continues to work on quantum computing but keeps a close eye on particle physics and recent developments in cosmology.


  1. ^ "Edward Farhi - the Mathematics Genealogy Project".
  2. ^ Farhi, Edward (1977). "Quantum Chromodynamics Test for Jets". Physical Review Letters. 39 (25): 1587–1588. Bibcode:1977PhRvL..39.1587F. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.39.1587.
  3. ^ Abbott, L.F.; Farhi, Edward (1982). "Are the weak interactions strong". Physics Letters B. 117 (1–2): 29–33. doi:10.1016/0370-2693(82)90867-X.
  4. ^ Farhi, Edward; Jaffe, R. L. (1984). "Strange matter". Physical Review D. 30 (11): 2379–2390. Bibcode:1984PhRvD..30.2379F. doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.30.2379.
  5. ^ Alcock, Charles; Farhi, Edward; Olinto, Angela (1986). "Strange stars". The Astrophysical Journal. 310: 261. Bibcode:1986ApJ...310..261A. doi:10.1086/164679.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  6. ^ Farhi, Edward; Guth, Alan H. (1987). "An obstacle to creating a universe in the laboratory". Physics Letters B. 183 (2): 149. Bibcode:1987PhLB..183..149F. doi:10.1016/0370-2693(87)90429-1.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  7. ^ Carroll, Sean M.; Farhi, Edward; Guth, Alan H. (1992). "Gott Time Machines Cannot Exist in an Open (2+1)-Dimensional Universe with Timelike Total Momentum". arXiv:hep-th/9207037.
  8. ^ Farhi, Edward; Gutmann, Sam (1996). "An Analog Analogue of a Digital Quantum Computation". arXiv:quant-ph/9612026.
  9. ^ Farhi, Edward; Gutmann, Sam (1998). "Quantum computation and decision trees". Physical Review A. 58 (2): 915–928. arXiv:quant-ph/9706062. Bibcode:1998PhRvA..58..915F. doi:10.1103/PhysRevA.58.915.
  10. ^ Farhi, Edward; Goldstone, Jeffrey; Gutmann, Sam; Sipser, Michael (1999). "Quantum Computation by Adiabatic Evolution". arXiv:quant-ph/0001106.
  11. ^ Farhi, Edward; Goldstone, Jeffrey; Gutmann, Sam (2007). "A Quantum Algorithm for the Hamiltonian NAND Tree". arXiv:quant-ph/0702144.
  12. ^ Farhi, Edward; Gosset, David; Hassidim, Avinatan; Lutomirski, Andrew; Shor, Peter (2010). "Quantum money from knots". arXiv:1004.5127 [quant-ph].
  13. ^ Farhi, Edward; Goldstone, Jeffrey; Gutmann, Sam (2014). "A Quantum Approximate Optimization Algorithm". arXiv:1411.4028 [quant-ph].