What is Quantum Computing?

By Xavier Lam

Quantum computing works by making use of subatomic particles that are able to exist in more than one state at a time. Using these particles, operations can be done faster and more efficiently than regular computers.

In computing, a bit is a single piece of information that can exist in two states of either 1 or 0. However, quantum computing uses quantum bits, or ‘qubits’. They have two states, yet unlike a usual bit, they can store more information than just 1 or 0. They have an ability to exist in any superposition of these values.

Bloch Sphere (c) glosser.ca CC BY-SA 3.0

You can use the analogy of an imaginary sphere to think of a qubit. While regular bits can be in two states (at either of the two poles of the sphere), a qubit can be any point on the sphere. A computer can use qubits to store much more information while using less energy.

What is quantum computing used for?

Quantum computers will help us solve problems, like modelling complex chemical processes, that even current supercomputers struggle with. In the field of cryptography, quantum computers would quickly be able to crack many of the encryption systems that rely on prime numbers. Researchers are already trying to develop technology that is resistant to quantum hacking. Moreover, it’s possible that cryptographic systems that make use of quantum computers would be far superior than conventional ones.

The future of quantum computers

“Quantum supremacy” refers to the point at which quantum computers superior to our current machines. Most of the world’s big tech companies (including Google and Microsoft), are racing to reach this quantum supremacy. Earlier this year, IBM unveiled its 20 qubit quantum computer, ready for commercial use. However, 20 qubits is far from the 50 qubits that researchers believe is required to reach quantum supremacy. Robert Young, director of the Lancaster Quantum Technology Centre says, “A 20-qubit system is unlikely to be practically useful.” It may be a while until we see quantum computers surpass current computers.

Final Thoughts

I think that quantum computers are truly the future of computing. Perhaps quantum computers will become more commercialized in the future, maybe once quantum supremacy is achieved. I can imagine playing video games on a quantum pc.

What are you’re thoughts on quantum computing? Do you believe quantum supremacy is in within our grasp?

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