Quantum computers could change the world as we know it. Machines could diagnose illnesses sooner, produce more efficient devices and structures, create strategies to live well in retirement and create an algorithm to quickly guide emergency personnel such as ambulances.
We experience the benefits of classic computing every day. However, there are problems that today’s systems will never be able to solve due to their size and complexity, such as complex chemical reactions. There is just not enough computational power on the planet to solve them. Therefore, to stand a chance at solving these problems, there needs to be a new kind of computing, quantum computers.
All computing systems rely on the ability to store and manipulate information. Current computers manipulate individual bits that store information as binary, using only 0 and 1. However, quantum computers use quantum bits, or qubits instead. These allow for information to exist in different states at any time. For instance, if a regular computer is trying to figure out a password it will plug in all the possible answers one at a time. Meanwhile, a quantum computer would plug in all the answers at the same time as it’s bits can be everything at the same time. Nonetheless, this would not give you the password as the computer would output right and wrong. Therefore, a technique called grover operator is used to sweep all of the wrong answers, and thus leave the user with the correct password. This would mean that passwords that take normal computers thousands of years to crack would be cracked in a matter of seconds. Furthermore, this same idea of trying everything at the same time could be applied to another up and coming innovation, self-driving cars. Imagine having a master system managing the entire system, figuring out the best alternative routes. The computer could try all the possible paths at the same time, operations that took a long time would be reduced to seconds. This would not only increase speed, but also mean that it would take less energy to run computers.
How Far Away Is It?
Until recently, it seemed like Google was leading the race when it came to creating a quantum computer that could surpass the abilities of traditional computers. In fact, in an article published in Nature Magazine in March 2017, the company set out an ambitious plan to commercialize quantum technology in the next five years. Shortly after, Google stated that it intended to achieve “quantum supremacy” using a 49-qubit computer. However, the term is not widely accepted within the quantum community. Those who are skeptical of Google state that they are doing it just to look like they’re making progress. Whether this is true or not, Google was stripped of the title when IBM announced in November 2017 that it had built a 50-qubit quantum computer. Nonetheless, the system could only remain stable for 90 microseconds, a record, but far from the times needed to make quantum computing practical.
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