QUANTUM COMPUTING FOR BEGINNERS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
It’s complicated. But we can help
Learn Quantum Computing.
If you find quantum computing difficult to get your head around. You’re not alone – so do some of the brightest minds in the business. Despite its complexity, the basics can be covered relatively easily, and we’ll go over all the key details in the following guide.
Once you’ve read through these pointers you should at least be able to make some passing reference to quantum computing at your next dinner party or press conference. And it’s important knowledge to have – this is undoubtedly in all of our futures.
In recent years you’ll have seen plenty of reference to quantum computing, quantum mechanics and quantum physics. We’ll get on to computing in a moment but it’s also helpful to understand the basics of quantum mechanics or quantum physics (the two terms basically refer to the same thing, at least for the purposes of a short explainer).
Quantum physics (or mechanics) tries to explain the universe around us at the smallest possible scale:
the tiny objects (like electrons) are not defined in a specific place at a specific time.
But through a range of probabilities relating to many places and times. It also covers the behavior of light and matter.
That is believed to exist as both particles and waves?
Even a basic explanation requires a lot more room than we have, but consider the famous example of Schrödinger’s cat: exposed to radiation,
the cat in a box can be either alive or dead until the box is opened up to make sure. then we can see the cat.
So essentially, the cat is both alive and dead at the same time – and that’s the probability approach underpinning quantum physics.
THE QUANTUM COMPUTING DIFFERENCE.
Inside the computers that we’re used to, pieces of data called bits to store information as 1s and 0s:
Quantum computing introduces a new concept called a qubit, which can exist in multiple states and be both 1 and 0 at the same time (remember Schrödinger’s cat?).
That state of being both 1 and 0 is known as a superposition (another term borrowed from quantum physics) and it exponentially increases the volume of number-crunching you can get through with a quantum computer.
The qubits (quantum bits) themselves are tiny particles stored in extremely cold conditions in a carefully controlled environment.
Part of the problem in trying to explain quantum computing is there’s still so much about it we haven’t yet got to grips with – scientists can see certain results happening, but are still trying to fully explain them.
There’s a lot of advanced maths and physics involved, but the good news is that researchers are continuing to make steady progress all the time.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF QUANTUM COMPUTING.
We’ve seen a number of quantum computers appear in recent years, although there’s some debate over what actually constitutes such a device.
The first working machines to genuinely qualify for the title appeared at the end of the 1990s with just two and three qubits, though they could only carry out basic calculations for a few nanoseconds.
In the 2000s:
The Five and Seven qubit computers were created.
But again these were really just proof of the fundamental theory of quantum computing than anything that could be practically used.
Further breakthroughs and a variety of approaches have followed since, as scientists continue to work to create the first fully working quantum computer.
You can buy a quantum computer today from D-Wave (Google has one for its own experiments), although many experts say these machines haven’t yet demonstrated the kind of results you would expect to see from a true quantum computing system –
And the jury’s still out on whether the age of quantum computing has truly arrived yet or not.
THE QUANTUM COMPUTING FUTURE.
That scientists still disagree over what constitutes a quantum computer is a testament to the complexity of the physics involved.
But we’re making steps forward all the time. Last year researchers in Australia demonstrated how quantum logic gates could be made of silicon,
Yet more proof that a full quantum computer might be just around the corner.
Recently scientists in the US have announced what they described as the first-ever reprogrammable quantum computer.
One that adapts to new instructions rather than following procedural steps.
Which it hopes will one day lead to full-blown quantum computing.
When quantum computing finally does arrive in all its greatness, it’s not going to make much difference in terms of how long it takes to check your email.
But in many fields – weather and climate forecasts, medical research, drug development.
Materials science, space exploration, self-driving cars and much more – it’s going to transform our way of life.
What researchers say and are working upon.
As Richard Feynman, a great scientist and quantum theorist, stated, “We can’t simulate a quantum computer on a classical computer”. Research efforts are based on creating a Universal Quantum Computer as a platform that can be used by researchers and engineers.
This includes creating chips and machines that can capture the behavior of particles and use their effect. It needs a sophisticated environment with an extremely ultra-low temperature and magnetic environment to capture particle behaviors. This video from D-wave describes it. So, unlike a personal computer sitting on our desk, it is accessible as a cloud service to researchers and programmers.
There is an infinite scope of research and development in the field.
Research areas links:
- Quantum computing research, Waterloo
- Institute of quantum information and matter, Caltech
- Quantum AI, Google
- Quantum computing research, IBM
What are the learning resources available?
Lectures and Materials.
- MIT xPro quantum computing paid course
- Coursera, Introduction to quantum computing free course
- Quantum mechanics and Quantum computation course, Edx
- MIT materials
- Other references, Youtube videos, and blogs
Code and Tools.
- IBM Quantum computer – it is freely accessible to everyone
- Quantum computing playground
- Project Q, Quantum information software kit
- Research papers available – Arxiv, Academic papers, Research papers
- Topcoder Fujitsu challenge – Quantum computing challenge using simulated annealing.
- Quantum computing for everyone book
- Quantum-Computing-since-Democritus-Aaronson, book.
Why businesses are beginning to care about quantum computing?
The increasing momentum in the field and the promise of QC is attracting companies and investors around the world. It is quite obvious that businesses want to be on the forefront of research to take the competitive edge. A universal quantum computer will allow companies to involve people to solve real-world problems.
That is not possible to solve with classical computers. It will impact hard problems from many fields:
- Machine learning: Optimization in Artificial intelligence and machine learning. DARPA RFI
- Weather and Climate: QC can handle many environment variables to forecast near term weather
- Personalized Medicine: Decoding DNA to prescribe drugs targeted to patients. A decoding protein structure can help identify new drugs.
- Space exploration: To process an enormous amount of imaginary data.
- Fundamental Science: To process larger data in real-world problems.
- Encryption: All the current encryption protocols will be at risk with quantum computers until we create quantum encryption.
- Real-time language translation: Real-time translation between any two languages.
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