New Quantum Computing Tutorial named Black Opal launched. Aimed at beginners to the field developed at Q-CTRL

You may have heard of some of the tech companies such as IBM and Microsoft which are promoting understanding of Quantum Computing. A new entrant has emerged from Q-CTRL which is actively involved in the development of Quantum Computing control systems. The tutorial, Black Opal, is pitched at non-scientists and aims to take learners through the fundamentals of complex and often poorly understood concepts in an interactive fun manner, and not just multiple-choice questions either! The people at Q-CTRL have made a huge effort to push real understanding rather than literal box-ticking. We took an early look at the course and have reviewed the course.

Unlike a lot of tutorials that dive right into the maths or equations, Black Opal focuses on the basic physics that drives the phenomena which Quantum Computers exploit, namely interference and superposition. These are the bread and butter of the whole field which are often so poorly understood, so we commend the focus on getting the basics of waves and their interactions over in a way that is fun and in bite-sized packets of learning that can be easily dipped into and out of at will. Black Opal is designed to help anyone begin their quantum journey, so the initial level might be a little low for some more experienced quantum people, but that is the point, to be a full learning platform for everyone.

Learners will enjoy the novel way that they have to really understand the basics of waves, by graphically manipulating the properties of a wave until the desired properties emerge. Constructive and destructive wave interference is demonstrated as the backbone of Quantum Computation and quantum circuits effectively ensure that desired results emerge from the correct interplay of constructive and destructive interference. Learners won’t be box-ticking, they’ll have to really get to grips with the material in order to get the right answer and we loved that analogue way of answering because it prevents people from just guessing without properly understanding the material being taught.

The platform is a refreshing environment and lends itself flexibly well to new content. New courses will be added at the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022 on more advanced topics, so it shouldn’t be risky to wait to see what additional content is uploaded on the platform, but here are topics touted for release:

  • Entanglement. Einstein called it “spooky action at a distance.” It’s not so spooky, but it may be extremely useful! Discover the most quintessential concept in quantum physics.
  • Quantum circuits. How do we represent the programs to be run on quantum computers? After this skill you’ll be able to decipher some of the cool diagrams you see in the field.
  • Noisy quantum computers. Why don’t we have useful quantum computers yet? Learn what’s holding us back through an understanding of how noise and interference affect quantum computers.

Professor Chris Ferrie, who is famous for the book: “Physics for Babies,” developed the content for the course and is a quantum education advisor for Q-CTRL. The platform aims to gamify the process of learning, which it does with clear animations and explanations and requiring the user to be interactive in their response. Some things that I would like to see are for example the numerical equivalents on some of the sliders, for example the angle of rotation – I think it would help to have the actual rotation so that learners get some handle on numbers and what they mean. Of course, its is understandable at Q-CTRL they wanted to minimize the overload of letters and symbols.


Q-CTRL on their Black Opal Quantum Computing Tutorial

The other platforms out there offer content and tutorials and we have often covered these extensively, and perhaps the closest in look and feel is the offering from Brilliant. There are also a variety of courses on EdX and Coursera that cater to different aspects of quantum Computing.

Navigation through the Quantum learning material is made plain sailing.

Pros of Black Opal

  • Assumes no basic knowledge of Quantum. Of course it can be helpful if you have some prior exposure, but the tutorials are developed to have a single point of entry without prior requisites.
  • Bite-sized learning. No long videos or tutorials, just dip in and dip out when you have the time.
  • Very structured. Topics are developed from ground up and build on past learnings and the learning pathways are clearly identified.
  • Light on mathemtics. Key concepts are developed without jumping right into linear algebra. But of course, maths is a key part of understanding, but intuitive understanding is used to develop the mathematics rather than the other way around, which means that learners can get explosed to the necessary maths without struggle.

Cons of Black Opal

  • Might start a level too low for some with existing knowledge, although it’s easy enough to skip through these topics if you know the material.
  • The course is free for some of the basic material, but more advanced material requires a subscription which is around 180$ for a year, but this is currently on a special offer for $50. So learners can try without spending a penny.

Getting Started with Black Opal

It’s still early days for Black Opal and the service is still in beta, but don’t be shy, signing up costs nothing, and if you are curious about quantum computing, and think you don’t have the background, this might just be the course for you!