Controlling Quantum Phenomena: The Dream Is Alive

Herschel Rabitz
Princeton University

Abstract: Since quantum phenomena were first discovered, a major effort has been to study its unusual character. The dream of controlling quantum phenomena emerged in tandem with the latter studies. Potentially controllable quantum phenomena span applications from electron transport in semiconductors out to analogous processes in biological molecules and generally manipulating atomic scale events of virtually any nature. The dream of carrying out these controlled processes was especially bolstered by the advent of lasers in the 1960’s and ultimately the development of ultrafast lasers operating at femtoseconds or even shorter times in keeping with the inherent timescales of quantum phenomena. The additional ability to shape laser pulses rather arbitrarily now provides the means to create tailored photonic reagents, which can interact with matter in a fashion analogous to that of ordinary reagents. Finally, drawing in appropriate theoretical principles and special high-speed algorithms has enabled the execution of an increasing number of experiments demonstrating the control of quantum phenomena. Although the dreams in this area are as old as quantum mechanics itself, the subject is perhaps best viewed as only a few years’ young. Only recently have all of the appropriate concepts and technologies been folded together providing the means to demonstrate that the dream of controlling quantum phenomena is in fact a reality. These developments will be discussed along with possible prospects for the future of the field.