From Short and Sweet AI, I’m Dr. Peper and today I’m discussing more about quantum computing.

Regular computers use a binary system of ones and zeros or bits. Quantum computers use quantum bits or qubits which exist in superposition and make them very powerful. Quantum computing is a very different technology from anything we’ve seen because qubits can exist in two states at once. They can be like a coin that is spinning and is both heads and tails at once. In order to explain how this could exist, quantum computing which is based on quantum physics has created theories of the existence of parallel universes. In a parallel universe you could have a coin be heads and in a separate parallel universe, it could be tails. Yeah, this stuff gets pretty crazy, very fast.

In the previous podcast I talked about the super powerful state of superposition. And I talked about entanglements where multiple qubits are physically separated but act like they’re entangled and give similar results. Added to that is this is all taking place in a computer which looks like a fantastic chandelier, made that way in order to create very cold conditions similar to outer space. Absolute zero, outerspace.

But are quantum computers a reality? There are many groups all over the world working on this technology: IBM, Google, Intel, the Chinese government, the US government, private start up groups such as Rigetti Computing and more. All these groups have been working feverishly for the ultimate breakthrough. Then in 2019 Google announced its’ quantum computer had solved a mathematical problem in 3 minutes 32 seconds. It would have taken the most powerful, existing supercomputer more than 10,000 years to solve the problem. That’s the difference in magnitude and power between a regular supercomputer and a quantum computer.

As the scientists explained, the answer to the problem wasn’t important, it really didn’t do anything.  But what the Google quantum computer accomplished was the same as the Wright brothers first plane flight. It showed that quantum computing was really possible even though its true potential is years in the future.

What’s holding the technology back? Well, quantum type problems. Qubits are very sensitive and must be shielded from heat, electrical interference, and other metals, and cooled down to just above absolute zero in order to complete their calculations. And you need at least 50 qubits to have a quantum computer but groups of qubits are very fragile and can fall apart or de-cohere. This leads to errors in the calculations.

Scientists are confident they will solve these problems in the next decade and then we will really see what these computers can do. That goes back to how qubits work. They’re very powerful because they can deal with uncertainty. And that’s how the laws of atoms and subatomic particles called quantum physics work. In nature, things smaller than the atom are not always on or off. They don’t follow the laws of larger things in nature such as gravity, relativity or E equals MC squared. With regular computers if you want to solve a maze, it will go down every single path, one after the other, until it finds the right one. A quantum computer works by the laws of subatomic particles and goes down every path at once because it can operate with uncertainty; it can hold each alternative path as a possibility. 

Technology this powerful can be used to simulate large complicated problems with uncertainty such as forecast financial markets, find better products such as batteries for self-driving cars, new drugs for medications, or even using quantum computing to understand quantum physics. And cryptography will be saved by quantum computing. New quantum encryption uses the uncertainty principle where everything influences the things around it. This means that quantum encryption keys cannot be hacked or copied. They’ll be unbreakable.

Richard Feynman, the father of quantum physics, expressed it best:

“Things on a very small scale behave like nothing that you have any direct experience about. They do not behave like waves, they do not behave like particles, they do not behave like clouds, or billiard balls, or weights on springs, or like anything that you have ever seen. (…) Because atomic behavior is so unlike ordinary experience, it is very difficult to get used to, and it appears peculiar and mysterious to everyone”.

From Short and Sweet AI, I’m Dr. Peper.

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