We’re at this year’s International Conference On Quantum Technologies in downtown Moscow to rub elbows with some of science’s finest contemporary minds and hear what they have to say about how the quantum world can make our lives better.
Perhaps the most promising application is quantum computing, an approach to computing that relies on the weird properties of super-tiny particles to solve problems that conventional computers simply cannot.
Quantum computing is getting more attention as today’s computers quickly approach the upper limit of their capabilities. Tapping into the subatomic world, quantum computers represent the most promising way to run through these computational roadblocks.
The “secret” behind conventional computers with formidable processing power is miniaturization. The smaller we can make transistors, the more we can fit in the same amount of space, and the faster a computer becomes.
According to a famous tenet of computer science called Moore’s Law, we can expect computer speeds to double or transistor prices to halve about every 12-18 months or so. But Moore’s Law has become more and more tenuous of late. At a certain point, it simply becomes impractical or impossible to shrink transistors. This is where quantum computing steps in to punch a hole in the ceiling and kick it up a notch.
You can click here for a more detailed explanation of how it works, but here’s your haphazard crash course: a quantum computer uses quantum bits, called qubits, which are all too glad to break the “rules” of how data is computationally represented.
A qubit can represent a one, a zero, or a one and a zero at the same time. This third state of one-and-zero-ness is called the “superposition” and it quite literally lets a computer attack the same problem many different ways at once. Suddenly, computations that could take a standard computer billions of years to complete get cracked open by a quantum computer in a matter of minutes.
This field is very much in its infancy, not unlike the world of personal computers in the 1970s, but it has the attention of some brilliant minds working to understand it, improve it, and find new ways to tangibly apply it to the world.
We’re here until Wednesday to sop up as much information as possible about the field. If you have any specific questions about quantum computing, please let us know in the comments. We’re surrounded by people who would love to answer them.
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