It seems like that is the BIGGEST buzzword after artificial intelligence. However, a lot of the resources I used to try to understand the concepts of quantum computing were difficult to understand quickly. After comprehending the concepts myself, I decided to create this article as a easily-comprehensible guide to understanding the next era of tech: quantum computing.
What Even is Quantum Computing?
Today’s technology is based on classical physics. However, classical physics is limiting our technology’s capabilities, and causing computers to be less efficient. Quantum computers are based on quantum physics, particularly quantum mechanics, which explains the physical properties of nature on the scale of an atom. This allows computers to be more efficient and increase their capabilities.
You must be wondering, how exactly do quantum computers become more efficient? Let me explain…
Particles with Superpowers?!
Quantum computers introduce aspects from quantum physics that computers have never seen before:
- Allowing subatomic particles to be a wave and particle at the same time.
- Allowing different particles to be affected simultaneously even if only one particle is directly affected by a cause.
- Allowing particles to pass through barriers, such as transistors in a classical computer.
Essentially, these superhero-like particles can be in two or more states at once, be psychics, and walk through walls. Using these aspects, quantum computers process information in a very different way compared to classical computers. A normal computer uses bits, a series of ones and zeros to understand information. However, a bit can ONLY be a one or a zero. A quantum computer uses qubits, which are able to exist in multiple states because of superposition. This allows them to be a 1 and 0 at the same time. How cool is that?
So read on…
Examples of Efficiency
As a result of qubits using properties such as the ones outlined above, quantum computers are MUCH more efficient at solving certain problems compared to classical computers. The capabilities of a classical computer are limited because computer parts can only be so small until quantum physics properties, such as quantum tunneling, begin to affect the computer’s functionality negatively.
An example of this is an electron passing through a transistor using quantum tunneling in a classical computer. This can happen when computer parts become super small, and venture into the quantum physics realm.
Instead, quantum computing is able to use the properties of quantum physics to its advantage. For example, a quantum computer is much faster at solving the traveling salesman problem. In case you aren’t familiar with the problem, it states that a salesman needs to visit a list of cities. Using the distance between each pair of cities, what is the shortest possible route that visits each city and then returns the salesman to the origin city?
This problem can be solved by a classical computer, but it would take a really long time since the classical computer would take the approach of testing every single route individually. For instance, if given a list of 33 000 cities, a classical computer would take 15 years to solve the question. If the computer used a list of 85 000 cities, it would take 136 years to solve the problem. With a quantum computer, since qubits can be in different states at once, the computer could be testing multiple routes at once. This makes the process much more efficient.
Now here comes the good part…
Real-Life Applications of Quantum Computing
Simulating chemical compositions for different compounds is another problem that is difficult for a classical computer to perform efficiently. However, a quantum computer would be able to perform this task quickly. One of the companies working on drug development using quantum computers is ProteinQure. This company combines technologies such as AI and quantum computing to engineer medicine.
Today’s online security systems are based on the factoring of very large numbers, since this is a task that takes a lot of time for a classical computer to perform. These systems will be undermined by quantum computers because they are able to factor large numbers fairly quickly. However, don’t panic just yet! Today’s quantum computers are too error-prone to begin dismantling our security systems, but this is an area to look at for the future of cybersecurity.
Despite being able to dismantle our encryption systems, quantum computing can also contribute to creating stronger cybersecurity systems. Post-quantum cryptography, also known as quantum-resistant cryptography, is an area of study that is developing encryption systems that are secure against both classical and quantum computers. Post-Quantum is a company that is currently working on creating post-quantum cryptography encryption systems!
Weather Forecasting and Climate Change
Even with the technology used to predict weather forecasts today, sometimes the predictions can be completely wrong. Quantum computers are able to analyze lots of data that goes into weather forecasting, so they would be much more precise when predicting the weather. However, this is an application of quantum computing that is in the early stages of research.
Additionally, quantum computing can be incredibly useful in the fight against climate change. Quantum computers can build improved climate models, allowing us to react to the potential impacts of climate change faster. Moreover, quantum computing can help combat climate change by simulating complex molecules for carbon capture that are cheaper and more effective than current models. This is definitely an exciting and very impactful application for quantum computing!
Some of the Cons of Current Quantum Computers
Even though quantum computing is part of the next era of technology, there is still a long way to go for these computers to become more mainstream. These are just some of the cons of quantum computers that need to be solved to move forward:
- They need to be kept really cold (-273°C) to slow down the particles to prevent collisions that could alter outcomes.
- They make a lot of noise. Click here to listen to IBM’s quantum computers.
- They have tons of errors at the moment.
There’s definitely still a lot of potential for improvement for quantum computers!
- Classical physics is limiting our technology’s capabilities, and causing computers to be less efficient.
- Quantum computers introduce aspects from quantum physics, allowing them to be more efficient.
- These aspects include superposition, entanglement, and quantum tunneling.
- Quantum computers use qubits instead of bits and apply the principles of quantum physics outlined above to be efficient.
- Real-life applications of quantum computing include drug development, cybersecurity, weather forecasting, and climate change
Quantum computers are definitely leading the way into the next era of technology. Leave a comment down below regarding your opinions on quantum computing! When do you believe quantum computers will become more mainstream and well-known?