We are only at the beginning of this journey and if you are like me the very word Quantum Mechanics /Physics not to mention Quantum Computing, sends me in a dizzy.
I have little or no concept of quantum other than entanglement occurs when two particles become related such that they can coordinate their properties instantly even across a galaxy.
Think of wormholes in space or Star Trek transporters that beam atoms to distant locations.
Quantum mechanics posits other spooky things too: Particles with a mysterious property called superposition, which allows them to have a value of one and zero at the same time; and particles’ ability to tunnel through barriers as if they were walking through a wall.
All of this seems crazy, but it is how things operate at the atomic level: the laws of physics are different.
So or what it’s worth. Here is what I have learnt.
Quantum computing will lead to breakthroughs in science, engineering, modeling and simulation, financial analysis, optimization, logistics and national defense applications.
It is likely that building a quantum computer will lead to unforeseen technologies and transform our understanding of the possibilities and limits of computation.
Despite the incredible power of today’s supercomputers, there are many complex computing problems that can’t be addressed by conventional systems. The huge growth of data (“Big Data”) and our need to better understand everything from the universe to our own DNA leads us to seek new tools that can help provide answers.
If we really could build a magic computer capable of solving an NP-complete problem, a decision problem in a snap, the world would be a very different place: An NP problem contains problems for which a computer can quickly check a proposed solution.
Imagine a computer that can teach your mobile phone to recognize any object it sees, or that can trawl through millions of social media posts to identify a potential terrorist.
The spy world, in particular, is looked to quantum computing for its use in encryption and code breaking – a mainstay of the intelligence business.
The technology sounds like a science-fiction caricature. It is based on a novel type of superconducting processor that uses quantum mechanics to massively accelerate computation. A quantum computer taps directly into the fundamental fabric of reality so how about conducting virtual experiments.
The question is has it being done.
To my mind a computer without any limitations would get boring pretty quickly.
We could ask our magic computer to look for whatever patterns might exist in stock-market data or in recordings of the weather or brain activity. Unlike with today’s computers, finding these patterns would be completely routine and require no detailed understanding of the subject of the problem.
The magic computer could also automate mathematical creativity which would be a transformation in the ways computers are thought about.
So what might be the benefits.
Quantum computers could solve multiple problems at the same time.
We would have really accurate weather forecasting: Quantum computing could analyse all that data at once and give us a better idea of when and where bad weather will strike. We’d have advanced notice of major storms like hurricanes and the extra prep time could help save lives.
More efficient drug discovery:
A quantum computer would be able to map out trillions of molecular combinations and quickly identify the ones that would most likely work, significantly cutting down the cost and the time of drug development.
No more traffic nightmares:
Beefing up military and defence:
Satellites are constantly collecting tons of images and video. A quantum computer would sort through that mountain of data and direct your car.
Secure, encrypted communication:
If a third-party intercepts the key then, thanks to the weird magic of quantum mechanics, it becomes useless and no one can read the message.
Accelerating space exploration:
Astronomers have discovered nearly 2,000 confirmed planets outside our solar system using the Kepler space telescope. A quantum computer could tackle more data in any given telescope view, spot more exoplanets, and help quickly identify which ones have the most potential to harbour life.
It could even uncover exoplanets that Kepler missed during its first run through older images.
Quantum computing could streamline both air traffic and ground-based traffic control because they’re so good at quickly calculating the optimal route.
Machine learning and automation:
It sounds super creepy, but like humans, quantum computers can learn from experience. They can self correct. For example, a quantum computer could actually modify the code of a program that keeps messing up.
The security of every Internet transaction would be broken if a quantum computer were to be built.
Not much more is known about what could be done with a practical quantum computer.
Except: A classical computer would have to run for thousands of years to compute the quantum equations of motion for just 100 atoms. A quantum simulator could do it in less than a second. Problems that would take a state-of-the-art classical computer the age of our universe to solve, can, in theory, be solved by a universal quantum computer in hours.
The quest to harness the computational might of quantum weirdness continues to occupy hundreds of researchers around the world.
Physicist Richard Feynman once famously said: “If you think you understand quantum physics, you don’t understand quantum physics.”
As technology shrinks to nanoscale levels, quantum effects need to be dealt with whether we want them or not. It would be a revolution not unlike the early days of computing. A game changer for humanity.
If quantum computers promised such godlike mathematical powers, maybe we should expect them on store shelves at about the same time as warp-drive generators and anti gravity shields.
There is a long ways to go before any of the above are available.
Not so; In 2013 Google, NASA and USRA created the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab and installed a D-Wave Two™ quantum computer at the NASA Ames Research Center.
It is the most advanced quantum computer in the world but is not an universal quantum computer.
There you have it.
If you are any the wiser let me know as we need to be preparing for the spooky technology future we are rapidly heading into.