Quantum computing is a new kind of technology that uses a type of computer that is 158 million times faster than the world’s most advanced supercomputer. It is so powerful that it could do in four minutes what it would take a regular supercomputer 10,000 years to do.
All of our computers have been made in the same way for decades. Whether it’s the huge computers at NASA or your laptop at home, they’re all just fancy calculators that can only do one thing at a time.
Bits, which are made up of binary digits, are the key to how all computers work. Bits are used to process and store information. There are only two possible values for these bits: 1 or 0. The book Fundamentals of Computers says that these numbers are what make up binary code, which a computer needs to read in order to do a certain task (opens in a new tab).
What Is Quantum Computing?
Documenta Mathematica says that quantum theory is a branch of physics that looks at the tiny world of atoms and the even smaller (subatomic) particles inside them (opens in a new tab). When you look into this tiny world, you’ll find that the laws of physics are very different from what we see in the real world. Quantum particles, for example, can be in more than one state at the same time. It’s called “superposition.”
Quantum computers use something called quantum bits, or “qubits” for short, instead of bits. A paper from the IEEE International Conference on Big Data says that a qubit can be a one, a zero, or both at the same time. A traditional bit can only be a one or a zero (opens in a new tab).
This means that a quantum computer doesn’t have to wait for one process to finish before it can start another. It can do both at the same time.
Imagine you had a lot of doors that were all locked except for one, and you needed to find out which one was open. A traditional computer would keep trying each door one by one until it found the one that was unlocked. Depending on how many doors there were, it could take five minutes or a million years. But a quantum computer could try each door at the same time. Because of this, they are so much faster.
Quantum particles also behave in a strange way called entanglement, which is another reason why this technology could be so groundbreaking. When two quantum particles are entangled, they are linked even if they are far away from each other. Even if they are thousands of miles apart, when you change one, the other reacts the same way. Nature says that Einstein called this property of a particle “spooky action at a distance” (opens in a new tab).
Understanding Quantum Computing
Two parts of quantum physics that these supercomputers are based on are superposition and entanglement. This means that quantum computers can perform operations at speeds that are many times faster than regular computers and use much less energy.
In the 1980s, the field of quantum computing got its start. Then, it was found that quantum algorithms were better at solving some kinds of computing problems than their classical counterparts.
Quantum computing could make a big difference in finance, the military and intelligence, drug design and discovery, aerospace design, utilities (nuclear fusion), polymer design, machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), big data search, and digital manufacturing.
Some of the biggest names in tech, like IBM, Microsoft, Google, D-Waves Systems, Alibaba, Nokia, Intel, Airbus, HP, Toshiba, Mitsubishi, SK Telecom, NEC, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Rigetti, Biogen, Volkswagen, and Amgen, are working in the field of quantum computing because of its potential and expected market size.
Quantum Computer vs. Classical Computer
Information is handled in a different way by quantum computers. Classic computers use transistors, which are either 1 or 0. Qubits are the parts of quantum computers that can be both 1 and 0 at the same time. The power of quantum computing grows exponentially with the number of qubits that are linked together. When more transistors are linked together, the power goes up in a straight line.
Classic computers are the best choice for everyday tasks that a computer needs to do. Quantum computers, on the other hand, are great for running simulations and analyzing data, like for chemical or drug tests. But these computers need to be kept very cold. They also cost a lot more and are harder to build.
In the past, computers have gotten faster by adding more memory. Quantum computers, on the other hand, help solve more complicated problems. Quantum computers might not be able to run Microsoft Word better or faster, but they can solve complex problems more quickly.
For example, Google’s still-being-built quantum computer could help with many things, like speeding up machine-learning training or making batteries that use less energy.
Quantum computing can also be used for other things, like sharing information safely. Other ways are to fight cancer and other health problems like cancer, and to make new drugs. Quantum computers can also help radars improve their ability to find things like missiles and planes. There are also other areas, like the environment and using chemical sensors and quantum computing to keep the water clean.
Quantum computers are smaller than traditional computers, which is another advantage they have over them. IEEE Annals of the History of Computing says that Moore’s Law states that computing power doubles about every two years (opens in a new tab). But engineers have to put more and more transistors on a circuit board to make this possible. A transistor is like a tiny light switch that can turn on or off. This is how a computer deals with a zero or a one in binary code.
You need more of these transistors to solve more complicated problems. But you can only fit so many of them on a circuit board, no matter how small they are. What does that mean then? According to the Young Scientists Journal, this means that traditional computers will soon be as smart as we can make them (opens in a new tab). There, quantum machines can make things different.
Building quantum computers has become something of a global race, with some of the biggest companies and even governments on the planet trying to push the technology further. This has led to a rise in interest in quantum computing stocks in the money markets.
The device made by D-Wave is a good example. According to a press release from the company, it has made the Advantage system, which it says is the first and only quantum computer made for business use.
D-wave said it was made with a new processor architecture that has more than 5,000 qubits and 15 ways for qubits to connect with each other. This, it said, lets companies solve their biggest and most complicated business problems.
The company says that the machine is the first and only quantum computer that lets customers build and run real-world quantum applications in the cloud at scale. The company said that the Advantage is 30 times faster than its previous generation system and gives the same or better results 94% of the time.
But even though quantum computers could theoretically be very powerful, you don’t need to throw away your old laptop just yet. Quantum Computing Inc. (QCI) says that traditional computers will still have a place in the future, and that they are much better at doing everyday tasks like spreadsheets, emailing, and word processing (opens in new tab).
Predictive analytics, on the other hand, is where quantum computing could really make a big difference. Because a quantum computer can analyze and make predictions so quickly, it could predict weather patterns and model traffic patterns where there are millions or billions of variables that are always changing.
Why Do We Need Quantum Computing?
Standard computers can do what people tell them to do well enough as long as a person gives them the right computer program. But they are not so smart when it comes to figuring out what will happen. Because of this, the weather report isn’t always right. There are too many things that can change, and they change too quickly, for a regular computer to keep up.
Because of their limitations, a regular computer might never be able to solve some calculations, or it might take a billion years. Not very helpful if you need to make a quick prediction or analysis.
Rigetti Computing’s research shows that a quantum computer is so fast, almost infinitely fast, that it could respond quickly to changing information and look at an infinite number of outcomes and permutations at the same time (opens in a new tab).
Quantum computers are also not as big as traditional computers because they don’t use transistors. They also use less power, which means that, in theory, they could be better for the environment.
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