18 Most Interesting Facts About Quantum Computers | 2020 Edition

Quantum computers are not supposed to check your emails, update status, or do normal software/hardware tasks. Instead, they are based on something more complex – Quantum Mechanics.

Quantum computer deals with particle much smaller than the size of atom. At such smaller scale, rules of physics do not make any sense. This is where exciting things begin to happen. Particles could move back and forth, or can even exist simultaneously. These types of computer can increase computational power beyond what is achievable by today’s conventional computers.

Let’s elaborate what we know about quantum computing at present. We’ve gathered some of the interesting facts about quantum computers that will definitely bend your mind.

1. Information Storage Pattern

The computers we use today store data in a binary format – series of 0’s and 1′. Each component of memory is called a bit and it can be manipulated via steps of Boolean logic.

On the other hand, A quantum computer would store data as either a 0, 1, or a quantum superposition of the two states. Such a quantum bit (also known as Qubits) has far greater flexibility as compared to a binary system.

Qubits could be implemented by using particles with 2 spin states – “up|{\uparrow }\rangle ” and “down|{\downarrow }\rangle “. Such system could be mapped onto an effective spin-1/2 system.

2. Blazing Speed

Since quantum computer can exist in more than just 0’s and 1’s state, they can perform calculations in parallel. Let’s consider a simple example, if the qubit is in a superposition of state 0 and state 1, and it performed a calculation with another qubit in the similar superposition, it would leave four results – 0/1, 0/0, 1/0 and 1/1.

The quantum computer will show the above result when it is in a state of decoherence, which lasts while it is in a superposition of states until it collapses down to one state. The ability to perform multiple task simultaneously is known as quantum parallelism.

3. Security Redefined

The speed of quantum computer is also a serious concern in the field of encryption and cryptography. Today’s world’s financial security systems are based on factoring large numbers (RSA or DSA algorithms) that literally cannot be cracked by conventional computers within the life span of Earth. However, a quantum computer could factor the numbers in a reasonable period of time.

On the other hand, quantum computers will be able to provide unbreakable security features. They can lock the crucial data (such as, online transaction, email accounts) with far better encryptions.
Many algorithms have been developed for quantum computers – most well known are Grover’s algorithm for searching an unstructured database and Shor’s algorithm for factoring large numbers.

Read: A New Method To Boost Quantum Computer Performance

4. Power Efficient

Power consumption is the critical factor of any device running on electricity. A huge array of processors need a hefty amount of power supply to sustain their performance. The fastest supercomputer in the world, Sunway TaihuLight (as of April, 2017) consumes 15.37 MW of power.

However, it gets fascinating with quantum computers. Since they use quantum tunneling, they will reduce the power consumption by a factor of 100 to 1000.

5. The Alternate Realities

According to quantum physics, we deal with something called Multiverse, where a problem may have many or infinite probable solutions. For instance, you might be reading this article on your Macbook. In another, you might be reading this over mobile while traveling.

A quantum computer can perform ‘n’ tasks in ‘n’ parallel universes and arrive at the final outcome. If a traditional computer does ‘n’ calculations in ‘n’ seconds, a quantum computer can perform ‘n2‘ calculations in the same time.

Read: 25 Biggest Inventions in Computer Science

You might remember IBM’s Deep Blue was the first computer to defeat a world chess champion, Garry Kasparov in 1997. The computer did so by examining 200 million possible moves per seconds. Far from human brain ability! But, if it was a quantum machine, it would have calculated 1 trillion moves per second, 4 trillion moves in 2 seconds, and 9 trillion moves in 3 seconds.

6. Why It Is Difficult To Build Quantum Computers

The problem with quantum computer is stability. It turns out the interference, any kind of vibration will upset the vibration of atoms, creating nonsense. Electrons in quantum mechanics behave like waves and are described by a wavefunction. These waves can interfere, causing strange behavior of quantum particles, and this is called decoherence.

7. Cool Temperature

The temperature needed to maintain a stable condition for better performance should be really low. To make quantum computers work, atoms must be kept stable. And the one known efficient way to keep these atoms stable is to reduce temperature to zero Kelvin, where atoms become stable without liberating heat.

At present, the D-Wave 2000Q system is the most advanced quantum computer. Its superconducting processor is cooled to 0.015 Kelvin (180 times colder than interstellar space).

8. Problem Solving Skills

Quantum computers can run classical algorithms, however, for efficient results, they use algorithms that seem inherently quantum, or use some features of quantum computation like quantum entanglement or quantum superposition.

Undecidable class problems remain undecidable in quantum computing. What makes quantum algorithm fascinating is that they will be able to solve problems faster than classical algorithms. They can solve traveling salesman problem in seconds which takes 30 minutes in conventional computers.

Moreover, a quantum computer can help discover distant planets, precision weather forecasting, detect cancer earlier, and develop more effective drug by analyzing DNA sequencing data.

Read: 20 Greatest Computer Programmers Of All Time

9. A.I Game Changer

The artificial intelligence is in the beginning-phase. Today’s advanced robot can walk into a room, recognize material, shape and moving bodies, but lacks the factors that make them really intelligent. Quantum computers are way better in the field of information processing – with 300 bits, we would be able to map the entire universe.

Quantum computers would be able to exponentially speed up the rate of machine learning operations, reducing the time from hundreds of thousands of years to mere seconds.

To measure the distance between two large vectors of 1 Zettabyte size, a conventional computer with a GHz clock rate will take hundreds of thousands of years. Whereas, a GHz clock rate quantum computer (if build in the future) will take only about a second after vectors are entangled with the ancillary qubit.

10. Not All Things Can Be Made Fast

Although quantum computers find the most optimal way to solve a problem, they relay on some of the basic mathematical principle your personal computer uses daily. This refers to basic arithmetic that is already well-optimized.

Read: 50 Shades of Computer Programming Laws

There is no better way to add a set of numbers than to just add them up. In such cases, classical computers are just as effective as quantum computers.

11. Latest Achievement On Quantum Computing

Scientists at University of New South Wales developed a first quantum logic gate in silicon, in 2015. Same year, NASA revealed the first operational quantum computer made by D-Wave that worth $15 million.

Read: A New Quantum Particle – 3D Skyrmion In A Quantum Gas

In 2016, researchers at the University of Maryland successfully created the first re-programmable quantum computer. Two months later, Basel University specified a variant of the electron hole based quantum machine that uses electron holes (instead manipulating of electron spins) in a semiconductor at low temperatures which are quite less vulnerable to decoherence.

Some More Fascinating Facts and Discoveries

12. Quantum computing was first mentioned by Richard Feynman in 1959 in his famous lecture ‘There is plenty of room at the bottom’. He considered the possibility of manipulating individual atoms as an enhanced form of synthetic chemistry.

13. The world’s first quantum key distribution protocol, BB84, was developed by IBM researchers Gillies Brassard and Charles Bennett in 1984. It’s a technique of securely sending a private key from one point to another for use in one-time pad encryption.

14. In February 2018, physicists came up with a new form of light, which involves three-photon bound states in a quantum nonlinear medium, that could drive the quantum computing revolution.

15. In March 2018, the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab — run by the Universities Space Research Association, NASA and Google — released a 72-qubit processor named Bristlecone.

16. A realistic model of quantum computation runs on quantum algorithms, which can be categorized by the type of problem they solve or technique/ideas they use. Currently, we have algorithms based on amplitude amplification, quantum Fourier transform, and hybrid quantum algorithms.

17. Several different candidates are being pursued to physically implement a quantum machine. Among them, the most popular ones are –

  • Superconducting and trapped-ion quantum computer
  • Spin-based and spatial-based quantum dot
  • Diamond-based quantum computer
  • Cavity quantum electrodynamics
  • Molecular magnet

Read: Japan’s Quantum Computer Prototype Is 100 Times Faster Than Supercomputers

18. So far, 5 companies have manufactured quantum chips – Google (Bristlecone), IBM (IBM Experience and Q), Intel (Tangle Lake), Rigetti (19Q) and D-Wave (Ranier).

Written by
Varun Kumar

Varun Kumar is a professional science and technology journalist and a big fan of AI, machines, and space exploration. He received a Master's degree in computer science from Indraprastha University. To find out about his latest projects, feel free to directly email him at [email protected] 

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