Scott Joel Aaronson
May 21, 1981
|Fields||Computational complexity theory, Quantum Computing|
|Doctoral advisor||Umesh Vazirani|
Scott Joel Aaronson (born May 21, 1981) is an American theoretical computer scientist and David J. Bruton Jr. Centennial Professor of Computer Science at the University of Texas at Austin. His primary areas of research are quantum computing and computational complexity theory.
Early life and education
Aaronson grew up in the United States, though he spent a year in Asia when his father—a science writer turned public-relations executive—was posted to Hong Kong. He enrolled in a school there that permitted him to skip ahead several years in math, but upon returning to the US, he found his education restrictive, getting bad grades and having run-ins with teachers. He enrolled in The Clarkson School, a program for gifted youngsters run by Clarkson University, which enabled Aaronson to apply for colleges while only in his freshman year of high school. He was accepted into Cornell University, where he obtained his BSc in computer science in 2000, and where he resided at the Telluride House. He then attended the University of California, Berkeley, for his PhD, which he got in 2004 under the supervision of Umesh Vazirani.
Aaronson had shown ability in mathematics from an early age, teaching himself calculus at the age of 11, provoked by symbols in a babysitter's textbook. He discovered computer programming at age 11, and felt he lagged behind peers, who had already been coding for years. In part due to Aaronson getting into advanced mathematics before getting into computer programming, he felt drawn to theoretical computing, particularly computational complexity theory. At Cornell, he became interested in quantum computing and devoted himself to computational complexity and quantum computing.
After postdoctorates at the Institute for Advanced Study and the University of Waterloo, he took a faculty position at MIT in 2007. His primary area of research is quantum computing and computational complexity theory more generally.
In the summer of 2016 he moved from MIT to the University of Texas at Austin as David J. Bruton Jr. Centennial Professor of Computer Science and as the founding director of UT Austin's new Quantum Information Center.
- Aaronson is one of two winners of the 2012 Alan T. Waterman Award.
- Best Student Paper Awards at the Computational Complexity Conference for the papers "Limitations of Quantum Advice and One-Way Communication" (2004)  and "Quantum Certificate Complexity" (2003).
- Danny Lewin Best Student Paper Award at the Symposium on Theory of Computing for the paper "Lower Bounds for Local Search by Quantum Arguments" (2004).
- 2009 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers
- 2017 Simons Investigator
- He was elected as an ACM Fellow in 2019 "for contributions to quantum computing and computational complexity".
- He was awarded the 2020 ACM Prize in Computing "for groundbreaking contributions to quantum computing".
In the interview to Scientific American he answers why his blog is called shtetl-optimized, and about his preoccupation to the past:
Shtetls were Jewish villages in pre-Holocaust Eastern Europe. They’re where all my ancestors came from—some actually from the same place (Vitebsk) as Marc Chagall, who painted the fiddler on the roof. I watched Fiddler many times as a kid, both the movie and the play. And every time, there was a jolt of recognition, like: “So that’s the world I was designed to inhabit. All the aspects of my personality that mark me out as weird today, the obsessive reading and the literal-mindedness and even the rocking back and forth—I probably have them because back then they would’ve made me a better Talmud scholar, or something.”— Scott Aaronson
He also wrote the essay "Who Can Name The Bigger Number?". The latter work, widely distributed in academic computer science, uses the concept of Busy Beaver Numbers as described by Tibor Radó to illustrate the limits of computability in a pedagogic environment.
He has also taught a graduate-level survey course, "Quantum Computing Since Democritus", for which notes are available online, and have been published as a book by Cambridge University Press. It weaves together disparate topics into a cohesive whole, including quantum mechanics, complexity, free will, time travel, the anthropic principle and more. Many of these interdisciplinary applications of computational complexity were later fleshed out in his article, "Why Philosophers Should Care About Computational Complexity". Since then, Aaronson published a book entitled Quantum Computing Since Democritus based on the course.
An article of Aaronson's, "The Limits of Quantum Computers", was published in Scientific American, and he was a guest speaker at the 2007 Foundational Questions in Science Institute conference. Aaronson is frequently cited in the non-academic press, such as Science News, The Age, ZDNet, Slashdot, New Scientist, The New York Times, and Forbes magazine.
Love Communications plagiarism
Aaronson was the subject of media attention in October 2007, when he accused Australian advertising agency Love Communications of plagiarizing a lecture he wrote on quantum mechanics in an advertisement of theirs. He alleged that a commercial for Ricoh Australia by Sydney-based agency Love Communications appropriated content almost verbatim from the lecture. Aaronson received an email from the agency claiming to have sought legal advice and saying they did not believe that they were in violation of his copyright.
Dissatisfied, Aaronson pursued the matter, and the agency settled the dispute without admitting wrongdoing by making a charitable contribution to two science organizations of his choice. Concerning this matter, Aaronson stated, "Someone suggested [on my blog] a cameo with the models but if it was between that and a free printer, I think I'd take the printer."
- Aaronson, Scott. "Scott Aaronson". Qwiki.
- Hardesty, Larry (7 April 2014). "The complexonaut". mit.edu. Retrieved 2014-04-12.
- CV from Aaronson's web site
- Aaronson, Scott (Dec 5, 2017). "Quickies". Shtetl-Optimized. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
- Scott Joel Aaronson at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
- Shetl-Optimized, "From Boston to Austin", February 28th, 2016.
- NSF to Honor Two Early Career Researchers in Computational Science With Alan T. Waterman Award, National Science Foundation, March 8, 2012, retrieved 2012-03-08.
- Aaronson, Scott (2004). Limitations of Quantum Advice and One-Way Communication. Computational Complexity Conference. pp. 320–332.
- Aaronson, Scott (2003). Quantum Certificate Complexity. Computational Complexity Conference. pp. 171–178.
- "Future and Past Conferences". Computational Complexity Conference.
- "Danny Lewin Best Student Paper Award". ACM.
- "The Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers: Recipient Details: Scott Aaronson". NSF.
- Simons Investigators Awardees, The Simons Foundation
- 2019 ACM Fellows Recognized for Far-Reaching Accomplishments that Define the Digital Age, Association for Computing Machinery, retrieved 2019-12-11
- 2020, Association for Computing Machinery, retrieved 2021-04-14
- Automata, Computability and Complexity by Elaine Rich (2008) ISBN 0-13-228806-0, p. 589, section "The Complexity Zoo"
- The Complexity Zoo page (originally) at Qwiki (a quantum physics wiki, Stanford University)
- "Shtetl-Optimized". scottaaronson.com. Retrieved 2014-01-23.
- Horgan, John. "Scott Aaronson Answers Every Ridiculously Big Question I Throw at Him". Scientific American. Retrieved 9 June 2021.
- Aaronson, Scott. "Who Can Name the Bigger Number?". academic personal website. Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, MIT. Retrieved 2014-01-02.
- "PHYS771 Quantum Computing Since Democritus". scottaaronson.com. Retrieved 2014-01-23.
- "Quantum Computing Democritus :: Quantum physics, quantum information and quantum computation". cambridge.org. Retrieved 2014-01-23.
- Aaronson, Scott (2011). "Why Philosophers Should Care About Computational Complexity". arXiv:1108.1791v3 [CC cs. CC].
- Aaronson, Scott (February 2008). "The Limits of Quantum Computers". Scientific American. 298 (3): 50–7. Bibcode:2008SciAm.298c..62A. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0308-62. PMID 18357822.
- "Foundational Questions in Science Institute conference". The Science Show. ABC Radio. 18 August 2007. Retrieved 2008-12-01.
- Peterson, Ivars (November 20, 1999). "Quantum Games". Science News. Science Service. 156 (21): 334–335. doi:10.2307/4012018. JSTOR 4012018. Retrieved 2008-12-01.
- Franklin, Roger (November 17, 2002). "Two-digit theory gets two fingers". The Age. Melbourne. Retrieved 2008-12-01.
- Judge, Peter (November 9, 2007). "D-Wave's quantum computer ready for latest demo". ZDNet. CNET. Archived from the original on December 26, 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-01.
- Dawson, Keith (November 29, 2008). "Improving Wikipedia Coverage of Computer Science". Slashdot. Retrieved 2008-12-01.
- Brooks, Michael (March 31, 2007). "Outside of time: The quantum gravity computer". New Scientist (2597).
- Pontin, Jason (April 8, 2007). "A Giant Leap Forward in Computing? Maybe Not". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-01.
- Gomes, Lee (December 12, 2008). "Your World View Doesn't Compute". Forbes. Archived from the original on December 14, 2008.
- "PHYS771 Lecture 9: Quantum". scottaaronson.com. Retrieved 2017-01-20.
- Tadros, Edmund (October 3, 2007). "Ad agency cribbed my lecture notes: professor". The Age. Melbourne. Retrieved 2008-12-01.
- Tadros, Edmund (December 20, 2007). "Ad company settles plagiarism complaint". The Age. Melbourne. Retrieved 2008-12-01.