Technology has come a long way since Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak launched the Apple I in 1976, or when Charles Babbage invented the first ‘computer’ back in the 19th century! Computers have become an integral part of our lives, especially when it comes to facilitating scientific discovery and research. Read on to learn more about how quantum computers are shaping the next generation of computer technology.
What is Quantum Computing?
Despite being some of nature’s smallest particles, quantum particles—such as atoms, photons, and electrons—hold an incredible amount of potential. Scientists are exploring methods of utilizing quantum particles to boost computing power in an effort to advance technological innovation. Many fields of research require complex calculations that are beyond the capacity of today’s supercomputers.
Quantum Computers Vs. Classic Computers
Classic computers run on bits—tiny units of information that power computation through binary code. Software developers and programmers write code that outlines a specific set of instructions for the computer to follow. While classic computers have gotten us this far, they’re not without their limitations—primarily, the capacity to process large amounts of data at once. The tasks required to perform calculations that today’s researchers desire, would take millions of years for a classic computer to perform.
A quantum computer uses a specially designed processor which is capable of harnessing and isolating quantum particles. Quantum bits, or qubits, possess many unique qualities that set them apart from classic computers, including the ability to exist in multiple ‘states’ at once. Where classic bits can only be one or zero, qubits can be both at the same time.
The Impact of Quantum Computers
Time is perhaps one of our most precious resources when it comes to research and discovery. However, classic computers—and even supercomputers—are often incapable of processing the amount of data required for today’s key research initiatives. This is because they need to run through each calculation one at a time, a process that can take thousands of years to complete.
Quantum computers, on the other hand, are capable of processing multiple calculations at once, significantly reducing the time it takes to solve complex mathematical problems. Quantum computers can be used for a wide variety of purposes, such as system optimization, Artificial Intelligence and machine learning, simulation and prediction of molecular interaction, and so much more.
Taking Steps Towards Quantum Supremacy
Although quantum computing is a relatively new field, scientists are confident that it is the key to our technological future. In 2019, Google claimed that they had achieved ‘quantum supremacy’, referring to their success in using a quantum computer to solve a task that would be considered impossible for a classic computer to solve. Their 54-qubit system, Sycamore, solved a complex problem in just 200 seconds; a task which would have taken today’s supercomputers 10,000 years! This has been marked as a pivotal milestone towards the future development of quantum computing.
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