22 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 complicated – Quantum Mechanics.

Quantum computer deals with particles much smaller than the size of atoms. At such smaller scales, 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 computers can increase computational power beyond what is achievable by today’s conventional computers.

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

1. Information Storage Pattern

The computers we use today store data in a binary format – a 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 two spin states – “up|{\uparrow }\rangle” and “down|{\downarrow }\rangle“. Such a system could be mapped onto an effective spin-1/2 system.

2. Blazing Speed

Since data in quantum computers 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 a 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 tasks simultaneously is known as quantum parallelism.

3. Security Redefined

The speed of quantum computers is also a severe 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.

On the other hand, quantum computers will be able to provide unbreakable security features. They can lock crucial data (such as online transactions, 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 (Summit), for example, consumes 13 MW of power.

However, things get really interesting 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 laptop. In another universe, you might be reading this over mobile while traveling.

A quantum computer can perform ‘n’ tasks in ‘n’ parallel universes and arrive at the outcome. If a traditional computer does ‘n’ calculations in ‘n’ seconds, a quantum computer can perform ‘n2′ calculations in the same amount of 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 second. 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 computers is stability. It turns out the interference (any kind of vibration upsets the vibration of atoms) creates gibberish output. Electrons in quantum mechanics behave like waves and are described by a wavefunction. These waves can interfere, causing the 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 algorithms fascinating is that they will be able to solve problems faster than classical algorithms. For example, they can solve the traveling salesman problem in seconds, which takes 30 minutes in conventional computers.

Moreover, a quantum computer can help discover distant planets, precisely forecast weather, 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 materials, 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 machines 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 ever built in the future) will take only 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 rely on some of the basic mathematical principles that your personal computer uses daily. This refers to basic arithmetic that is already well-optimized.

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

Read: 50 Shades of Computer Programming Laws

11. Latest Achievement On Quantum Computing

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

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

In 2019, Google AI, in partnership with NASA, published a paper claiming that they have achieved quantum supremacy — a breakthrough in the history of quantum computing.

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

12. Systems Can Be Used To Simulate Quantum Machines

One of the most important applications of quantum computing is quantum simulators. They allow the analysis of quantum systems that are impossible to model with supercomputers and difficult to study in the laboratory.

Quantum simulators are specifically designed to provide insight into certain physics problems. They may be constructed with conventionally programmable ‘digital’ quantum computers, which could solve a broad range of quantum problems.

So far, quantum simulators have been realized in many different experimental platforms, including systems of trapped ions, polar molecules, ultracold quantum gases, quantum dots, and superconducting circuits.

13. Programming Language For Quantum Computers

Quantum programming language

In 2020, researchers developed Sliq: an easy-to-understand high-level programming language for quantum computers.

In quantum computations, developers usually have to deal with several frustrating things, such as a low level of abstraction that leads to cluttered code, temporary values that need to be discarded, and much more.

Although some quantum languages try to work around this, they work in a relatively convoluted way. Sliq, on the other hand, supports safe, automatic uncomputation, which enables an intuitive semantics.

Some More Fascinating Facts and Discoveries

14. 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.

15. 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.

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

17. 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.

18. 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.

19. Several different candidates are being pursued to implement a quantum machine physically. 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

20. Data encoded in a quantum state cannot be copied. If you try to read this data, its quantum state will be changed. The feature could be used to identify eavesdropping in quantum key distribution.

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

Read: 5 Quantum Processors That Feature New Computing Paradigm

22. In 2020, a team of researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, set a new record for preparing and measuring quantum bits inside a quantum computer without error. More specifically, they achieved a preparation and measurement error rate of 0.03%. It will impact almost every area of quantum information science.

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 GGSIPU University. To find out about his latest projects, feel free to directly email him at [email protected] 

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