What is quantum mechanics? I have no idea. No matter how much I read about the subject, I’m lost after the first few paragraphs. What I do know, is that quantum mechanics is our future. From security to computing, quantum mechanics is changing the game. We can make processors smaller and faster. We can pack thousands of them into machines and call them supercomputers. In the end, only a new technology can leap over the inherent limitations of traditional computing.
This is where quantum computing is making waves. According to a new study, a quantum computer has solved a problem in 200-seconds that would have taken a traditional computer 10,000 years to solve.
A computer works in binary, storing information as either 0 or 1. Quantum computers store information in quantum bits, also known as qubits. Qubits maintain more than one possible answer that can only be confirmed when measured. This is difficult for me to understand. It goes back to the fact that quantum mechanics is weird and acts in ways that goes against our basic understanding of physics. With quantum mechanics, things can be in two states at once, called superposition. Einstein identified entanglement in quantum mechanics, where objects are linked even at a great distance to one another. For two particles to communicate over light years would require that they send messages faster than the speed of light, which shouldn’t be possible. To save our beloved theory of relativity, we must assume they aren’t communicating but influencing each other. Weird, right?
These strange traits force us to look to quantum mechanics for solutions to complex problems. It’s already being tested to send encrypted information via satellites. If this can be turned into an economical form of data transfer, we could see the end of data hacks. One quantum computer at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore can see into the future, or at least 16 possible versions of the future.
This same technology is used to create quantum-scale semiconductors for computers. There are many challenges to creating a reliable quantum computer. Quantum processors are prone to errors, given their uncertain states. New algorithms are necessary to fix these errors and make it a viable computer.
Who knows how long it will take before quantum computing becomes a part of our everyday life. Like a quantum space race, people, organizations and governments see the writing on the wall and are investing heavily to make this a reality sooner than later.
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