Quantum Computing (a short introduction)

Posted on: August 8th, 2012 by SoftwarePatch.com 2 Comments

Quantum computing is a very, very new and exciting area in the computing realm. Whilst it still has its hurdles to overcome, we are seeing great progress being done by scientists all over the world.

Why Quantum Computing?

The IT industry has a ‘law’ known as Moore’s Law which states that computing power doubles every 16 months. So far this law has held true despite the challenges we have had to overcome however very soon, the current materials we use to build computers, namely silicone, will max out and we will need to move to an entirely different platform. One of the candidates for this next-generation computer is the Quantum Computer.

So what is Quantum Computing?

To understand quantum computing, we must first understand Quantum and Quantum Mechanics.

Quantum is the minimum amount of anything. This means breaking down something to its very basic elements. Quantum Mechanics, on the other hand, deals with the states of Quanta (plural for Quantum).

To take an example, light is made out of ‘photons’. So photons are light’s quantum. The state of the photon is dealt with in Quantum Mechanics.

What do we mean by state? A cat in a box!

Cat in a box

Schrodinger was an Austrian physicist who came up with a thought experiment illustrating a challenge faced in Quantum mechanics. In his thought experiment (this did not really happen, it is just a theory to illustrate a concept, an idea) a cat is locked in a box along with a bottle of poison and a mechanical hammer device that may or may not strike the bottle of poison. Schrodinger argues that unless we open the box to see if the cat is alive or not, the cat is both alive and dead at the same time (the cat’s state). This has been shown in a recent experiment where Quanta were found to vibrate and not vibrate at the same time.

The Experiment

Aaron D. O’Connell is an awesome quantum physicist who created the first Quantum Machine. The Quantum Machine measures superpositions by taking all other elements out of the equation.

In a speech given by O’Connell, he explains this by using an elevator as an example. When we are alone in an elevator, we are free to do what we want; we can move about freely and even dance if we want to! However, when other people are in the elevator, we behave differently.

By removing all other elements (light, heat and air) in the same way as leaving only one person in an elevator, O’Connell observed Quantums vibrating and not vibrating at the same time. This means that Quanta (the building blocks of everything) can be in 2 places at the same time. This is superpositioning.

Computers vs. Quantum Computers

In traditional computers, we use bits to measure data. A bit can be either a 1 or a 0. This is also known as binary. In Quantum computing, however, we use Qubits and this is where superpositions become not only handy, but very interesting.

Since Quanta can be vibrating and standing still simultaneously, we can take the different superpositions and create a new type of data. Instead of just 1 and 0, we now have a number of different ‘states’ which gives us way more data throughput.

Since superpositions are affected by light, heat and temperature, using this technology for everyday computing has its challenges, and scientists are still exploring ways to make this work. One such advancement is the recent development in superconductors, which will be covered in another entry.

Despite its challenges, Quantum Computing still represents an interesting development period for computing; one full of opportunities and innovation.

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