Quantum Computing Progress Will Speed Up Thanks to Open Sourcing
In the quest for ever more powerful computers, researchers are beginning to build #quantucomputers—machines that exploit the strange properties of physics on the smallest of scales. The field has been making progress in recent years, and quantum computing company #DWave is one of the pioneers. Researchers at #Google, #NASA, and elsewhere have been studying how they can use D-Wave’s chips to solve tricky problems far faster than a classical computer could. Although the field is making progress, it is still largely the domain of an elite group of physicists and computer scientists. However, more minds working a problem tend to be better than fewer. And to that end, D-Wave took a bold step toward democratizing quantum computing last week by releasing an open-source version of its basic quantum computing software, Qbsolv. “D-Wave is driving the hardware forward,” D-Wave International president Bo Ewald told Wired. “But we need more smart people thinking about applications, and another set thinking about software tools.” Qbsolv is intended to allow more developers to program D-Wave’s computers without the requisite PhD in quantum physics. That is, more people will be able to think about how they’d use a quantum computer—and even begin writing software applications too. This has profound implications for the future of computing. But first, a little background. What is quantum computing? To understand the significance of D-Wave’s announcement, let’s take a quantum leap back to the 80s. In 1982, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman suggested that computing could become inconceivably faster by utilizing the basic laws of quantum physics. While digital computers already use physics to process binary digits — or bits — comprised of 1s and 0s, Feynman suggested not using bits at all but rather quantum bits, or qubits. Unlike classical bits, qubits can exist simultaneously as both 1s and 0s. This might be described as the probability a qubit is either 1 or 0, but it’s actually more subtle than that and relies on a property intrinsic to quantum physics that is impossible to emulate using simple probabilities.