Race is on among tech firms to build a computing ‘oracle’
In ancient times, it would have been called an #oracle – a source of instant insight on the most perplexing problems. Now, scientists are closing in on making a device capable of such feats. Its name is as enigmatic as the source of its power: the #quantumcomputer. After decades of research, tech giants #Google, #IBM and #Microsoft are among those racing to unveil the first quantum computer, which will solve in an instant problems that would tie up today’s computers for millennia. From designing drugs to simulating reality and forecasting the future, quantum computers promise to turbo charge the scientific revolutions started by conventional computers. The secret of their power lies in their exploitation of bizarre phenomena normally confined to the sub-atomic world but which scientists can now conjure to order. Quantum theory is notorious for defying common sense. Even one of its pioneers, the Nobel Prize-winning Danish theorist Niels Bohr, declared that anyone who isn’t shocked by its claims hasn’t understood it. Quantum theory predicts, for example, that particles such as electrons have a property called spin, a rough analogy to a spinning ball.