But he’s not. Since his sophomore year, Ari has been conducting research that made him the primary author of a study in quantum physics called “Analysis of Photon-Mediated Entanglement Between Distinguishable Matter Qubits.”
Roughly translated: This high school senior is dabbling in the science of quantum teleportation.
For more than two years, Ari has teamed with institute researcher Steven Olmschenk on the project. The work has won significant recognition.
In January, Ari was named one of 40 finalists in the 2012 Intel Science Talent Search, the country’s oldest and most elite pre-collegiate science competition. Contest alumni have won Nobel Prizes, Fields Medals, National Medals of Science, MacArthur Foundation Fellowships — and even an Academy Award. (Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman was an Intel finalist in the late 1990s.) Ari is one of two finalists from the Washington area this year, along with senior Frederick Koehler from Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring.
On Thursday, Ari joined other finalists in Washington to compete for more than $600,000 in scholarship awards. Ten top winners will be chosen based on project presentations and interviews before a panel of judges. The first-place winner, who will receive a $100,000 scholarship from the Intel Foundation, will be announced Tuesday.
A poster displaying Ari’s research is mounted in a hallway at the Loudoun Academy of Science, where Ari has studied math and science since ninth grade. While leading a group of visiting educators on a tour last week, academy director George Wolfe pointed to Ari’s work — filled with dense terminology and technical illustrations — and joked: “No one understands this poster!”
It’s not much of an exaggeration. Ari is working with quantum physics at a level generally reserved for graduate students. It is beyond what his teachers can fully comprehend.
One recent afternoon in Olmschenk’s office, Ari opened a PowerPoint presentation of his project.
The moment Ari began to discuss his research, two things became clear: His sense of awe at the world of quantum physics is endearingly childlike — and his command of the incredibly advanced material is anything but.
Ari pointed at two shapes, representing distinct quantum “bits,” on the computer screen.
“It’s better to think of teleportation in terms of communication,” he said. Imagine these two atoms, separated by a great distance, he said. Particles of light emitted by the atoms can be made to interact, and — through a process called “entanglement” — used to link the atoms. Once linked, information from the first atom will appear in the second atom when the quantum state of the first atom is destroyed.