Celebrating Jose Ignacio Latorre

Today a very special event took place in Barcelona: the LatorreFest, a celebration of Jose Ignacio Latorre’s 60 birthday. Jose Ignacio is of course a very important person in both my scientific and personal history, having been my PhD supervisor and then collaborator and friend for almost 20 years now. So together with two other former PhD students of Jose Ignacio, Antonio Acin from ICFO and Roman Orus from the Donostia International Physics Center  from the Donostia International Physics Center, we decided to invite a number of the many friends and collaborators of Jose Ignacio to celebrate together not just an anniversary, which is just an excuse, but more a friendship and an adventure in science.

The talks covered a very wide range of topics, which are just a small but representative sample of Jose Ignacio’s ample interests. We started with Pedro Echenique, the president of the Donostia International Physics Center Foundation and Professor of Physics at the University of the Basque Country, and one of the founding fathers of the Spanish physics community. Pedro gave a beautiful and inspiring talk about the role of beauty in science, highlighting how for example Maxwell’s equations represent one of the pinnacles of the human endeavour. He was also careful to emphasise that while beauty can be a guiding principle no theory can be so beautiful that it deserves to the true, and that in science it is experiment the ultimate referee to decide whether or not a scientific theory, either beautiful or ugly, describes our natural world.

Pedro Echenique and Maxwell’s equations.

Pedro’s talk was followed by Luis Alvarez-Gaume, a former staff member of the Theory group at CERN and since a few years  the director of the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics at Stony Brook. Then we had a superb talk by Ignacio Cirac from the Max Plank Institute, who provide an extensive and hype-less overview of the present status and future challenges in quantum information and computation. Cirac, who many predict will receive a Nobel Prize for his foundational work in quantum computation, highlighted the many potentialities of quantum computation, and that while we are still far from truly groundbreaking quantum computers we are already in the position to attack many non-trivial problems, many of which with direct societal and commercial applications.

Ignacio Cirac and the many problems that a quantum computer could attack.

Other speakers of the LatorreFest included Stefano Forte from Milan, who emphasized the rile of Jose Ignacio as a visionary, in particular suggesting the crucial role that neural networks and machine learning tools could have in high energy physics well before this techniques were as commonplace as they are now; German Sierra from IFT Madrid, who discussed another of Jose Ignacio’s passions which is number theory and in particular what we can learn about the properties of prime numbers using quantum computers; and Manuel Asorey from the University of Zaragoza, who presented another of Jose Ignacio’s main achievements and that has been a driver for excellent science both in Spain and worldwide: the now-famous Benasque Center for Science.

The last talk of this excellent event was given by Juan Fuster from IFIC in Valencia, who discussed the future of high-energy physics and particle accelerators. And he also presented another of Jose Ignacio’s many passions, namely wine-making! Quite possibly the wine that Jose Ignacio, Juan, and their collaborators produce every year is the most scientific one ever made, and is arguably the only wine I am aware of that is directly inspired in quantum mechanics. Juan presented a strong case for a future high energy particle collider, emphasising that the exploration of the energy frontier is far from a job done and the role of a global approach to built such machine as soon as possible, ideally to ensure a smooth transition with the operations of the high-luminosity LHC.

Quantum is arguably the only brand of wine ever made that is directly inspired by the principles of quantum mechanics.

It was a most enjoyable day and a beautiful opportunity to celebrate together a prolific friendship. In a time where toxic dynamics of power, harassment, and exploitation in the scientific world are so in the spotlight, I feel truly privileged by having had such a selfless, devoted, and inspired PhD advisor as Jose Ignacio. Many congratulations, and remember that the best is yet to come!

Amazing lineup of speakers at the LatorreFest60, almost modern version of the famous Solvay conference picture ….

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