WEB & TECH / JAN. 29, 2015
version 3, draft 3

What is Quantum Computing?

Quantum physics or mechanics is the science of atomic and sub-atomic particles. Physicists have noticed that atomic and sub-atomic particles tend to act very differently to the laws of Physics of the physical world. These behaviors or rules will enable the processing of information at speeds that would normally never be possible. For a slightly more specialized explanation regarding quantum computing, check out the two videos below.

Why would this increase processing speed?

Computers are based on the processing and storage of bits of information. One bit is expressed either as a 0 or a 1. It takes about 8 bits to express a number. Now come with me as we step through the looking glass with the quantum white rabbit as our guide, and he always needs more speed because he’s perpetually late. The quantum equivalent of a bit is a qubit (physicists aren’t the most creative bunch; it still sounds pretty cool, though). A single qubit can be both a 1 and a 0 at the same time. This allows for just 8 qubits to store all 256 numbers at once, instead of 8 digital bits being able to hold just one number.

What’s the benefit?

Processing speed, obviously. As I mentioned above, a quantum computer can process a significantly larger amount of data. Google and NASA recently went halvies on the second generation of commercially available quantum computers, and of course ran various speed tests. One such test showed that the quantum computer was 35.000 times faster than digital computing. On the other hand, a professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Matthias Troyer, found that when he used computers optimized for algorithm-solving, the digital and quantum computers were pretty much on par with each other. Which even he admitted was impressive, considering quantum computing is still in its infancy.

Is the technology feasible?

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but unfortunately, the technology isn’t quite there yet. Digital computers have been in development and have been refined for decades; we are familiar as to how to build them, program them and store information on them. Although at the moment quantum computing seems promising, we are not able with our current knowledgebase to fully take advantage of its capabilities. As further research is compiled on the use and implementation of the technology, it is bound to develop further.

Who is researching quantum computing?

With a 10 to 15 million-dollar price tag, it won’t be in the hands of consumers any time soon, but companies such as Lockheed Martin and the collaboration between Google, NASA and the University Space Research Association will hopefully produce results in the near future. Lockheed Martin is implementing the technology for demanding computational solutions, whereas the collaboration is concentrating on using the technology for Artificial Intelligence and machine learning. Lockheed’s quantum computer is located at the University of Southern California at the moment. Google, NASA and U.S.R.A.’s quantum computer is currently being housed in the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab in Ames Research Center located in Moffett, California.

The future of this technology

As I mentioned above, both owners of the quantum computers are working on very disparate implementations of the technology. If its promised speed of processing is finally achieved, that means that we will have a supercomputer able to process unfathomable loads of data, and transversely, we will see a computer that will be able to communicate linguistically with humans, learn and evolve using this knowledgebase.

Are you excited in the possibilities that quantum computing will offer in the near future? Let us know in the comment section below about this potentially trail-blazing technology.

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