Science, Passion and Communications

Every day at D-Wave I can see firsthand how much passion scientists have for what they do. Advancing both scientific understanding and technology as new as quantum computing isn’t an easy task, and the commitment, intelligence and hard work required can’t be underestimated. Every day at our offices there will be groups of scientists (and computer scientists and mathematicians) in deep conversation, drawing equations on white boards and delving into complex discussions. As Wendy, one of our employees, notes on the careers page of this website “The day I started, I sat in my first management meeting, and thought I was part of some weird quantum hazing ritual. I now understand that the team was actually speaking English, although at the time, I was sure they weren’t.”

That gets to the crux of an issue that is critical to the advancement of science: How the passion and vision of scientists gets communicated to the rest of us, in a way that makes us equally excited and curious and supportive. It requires the ability to translate complex ideas into simpler ones, that can be more broadly understood. It also demands that none of the passion is lost in the translation process.

Cornell scientist Carl Sagan was a master at this, and in recent years that mantle has been passed to an increasing number of others – like Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Michio Kaku, Brian Greene and actor Alan Alda. The reason I bring this up now is that two things recently caught my eye in the press. The first was an article in the New York Times about Alan Alda’s latest challenge to scientists, in his ongoing efforts to challenge scientists to communicate to the public. The second reason is the pilot episode of the new Cosmos series, originally created by Carl Sagan, and now coming back with Neil DeGrasse Tyson as its host.

Those of us at D-Wave face the same challenge:  how to effectively, and passionately communicate what we’re doing – and why it matters – to a diverse audience. We’ll continue to work hard at it, as simply as we can.