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YOU’VE HEARD THE hype: The #quantumcomputer revolution is coming. Physicists say these devices will be fast enough to break every encryption method banks use today. Their #artificialintelligence will be so advanced that you could load in the periodic table and the laws of quantum mechanics, and they could design the most efficient solar cell to date. And they’ll be here soon: Writing in Nature earlier this month, #Google researchers said they anticipate the first commercial quantum computers in five years, and the company wants to build and test a 49-qubit—that’s “quantum bit”—quantum computer by the end of this year. Some experts say that a 50-qubit computer could outperform any conventional computer. But there’s a big problem: By its nature, you can’t save or duplicate information on a quantum computer. All that computing power is of little use if you can’t back up your work. You can convert quantum data and put it on a traditional storage device, but all that converted data takes up a lot of space. So physicists are hunting for reliable, super-compact hard drives made of new materials—including DNA. Quantum computers are so powerful exactly because of their data density. A classical computer reads, stores, and manipulates bits: 1’s and 0’s. A quantum computer uses qubits: tiny quantum objects that can be in two states—both 1 and 0—at the same time, as long as you’re not looking at it. And if you control a quantum particle in a superposition of two states, you can perform tasks in parallel, which speeds up certain computational tasks exponentially. That speed won’t improve your #Netflix experience or make #MicrosoftExcel more bearable, but it will be much faster at running search algorithms or simulating complicated systems like organic materials or the human brain.

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