Think Quantum, Not Binary

Popular technology columnists have an almost fetishistic obsession with reporting the latest buzz on silicon-chip-run computing devices.

Presently, it’s tablets, cloud computing and phones that are the apple (pun intended) of their collective eyes, with an askance glance cast in the direction of laptops, and desktops—gadgets, which, mind you, not too long ago, had their undivided attention.

Still, we do read about them, off and on.

But what we almost certainly never get to hear about is quantum computing, an esoteric field, at its infancy. At maturity, it promises to truly bring about a quantum leap in Charles Babbage’s invention, birthing a machine, unfathomably more powerful than any computer we know today.

Quantum computing is based on a branch of physics, known as quantum mechanics.

At its heart, is the concept of the “Many Worlds Interpretation,” which posits that for every event, there’s not one, but many outcomes, and that each one of these happens. It dismisses the notion of reality as a single history, but innumerable ones, each of which is realized.

In The New Yorker feature, “Dream Machine,” Rivka Galchen writes:

Quantum mechanics states that particles can be in two places at once, a quality called “superposition;” that two particles can be related or “entangled” such that they can coordinate their properties, regardless of their distance in space and time; and that when we look at particles, we unavoidably alter them.

Which is perhaps, why it’s intolerably odd even to physicists. However, scientists, although indifferent to the truth or falsehood of this idea, as a description of the universe, are now working to build a quantum computing machine.

A classical computer transforms an input into an output through nothing more than the manipulation of binary bits, units of information that can either be zero or one.

A quantum computer does so with qubits instead. Each qubit (pronounced: Q-bit) can be zero or one, like a bit, but a qubit can be zero and one—the quantum mechanical quirk known as superposition.

Very recently, the future of computation was born. Oddly, no drum roll was heard. Or, maybe, it was kept deliberately inaudible.

D-Wave, a British Columbia-based company, released D-Wave One, the world’s first commercially viable quantum computer, the equivalent of Edison’s light bulb in the computing world. D-Wave One works with a 128-qubit chip set, which makes it mighty.

Lockheed Martin was its first buyer.



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