What are quantum computers and how do they work? WIRED explains

From an article by Abigail Beall and Matt Reynolds at Wired UK:

Google, IBM and a handful of startups are racing to create the next generation of supercomputers. Quantum computers, if they ever get started, will help us solve problems, like modelling complex chemical processes, that our existing computers can’t even scratch the surface of.

But the quantum future isn’t going to come easily, and there’s no knowing what it’ll look like when it does arrive. At the moment, companies and researchers are using a handful of different approaches to try and build the most powerful computers the world has ever seen. Here’s everything you need to know about the coming quantum revolution.

What is quantum computing?

Quantum computing takes advantage of the strange ability of subatomic particles to exist in more than one state at any time. Due to the way the tiniest of particles behave, operations can be done much more quickly and use less energy than classical computers.

In classical computing, a bit is a single piece of information that can exist in two states – 1 or 0. Quantum computing uses quantum bits, or ‘qubits’ instead. These are quantum systems with two states. However, unlike a usual bit, they can store much more information than just 1 or 0, because they can exist in any superposition of these values.

“The difference between classical bits and qubits is that we can also prepare qubits in a quantum superposition of 0 and 1 and create nontrivial correlated states of a number of qubits, so-called ‘entangled states’,” says Alexey Fedorov, a physicist at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.

A qubit can be thought of like an imaginary sphere. Whereas a classical bit can be in two states – at either of the two poles of the sphere – a qubit can be any point on the sphere. This means a computer using these bits can store a huge amount more information using less energy than a classical computer.

Read more at wired.co.uk

Image Credit:  Ray Orange

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