Quantum computing breakthrough announced

quantum computing

Practical quantum computers are a step closer, with IBM scientists announcing "two critical advances" in the journal Nature.

The IBM breakthroughs…show for the first time the ability to detect and measure the two types of quantum errors(bit-flip and phase-flip) that will occur in any real quantum computer. Until now, it was only possible to address one type of quantum error or the other, but never both at the same time. This is a necessary step toward quantum error correction, which is a critical requirement for building a practical and reliable large-scale quantum computer.

If that sounds like a headache, it is: the field is still in its infancy, writes Physorg. The University of Waterloo explains:

"Quantum computing is essentially harnessing and exploiting the amazing laws of quantum mechanics to process information. A traditional computer uses long strings of "bits," which encode either a zero or a one. A quantum computer, on the other hand, uses quantum bits, or qubits. What's the difference? Well a qubit is a quantum system that encodes the zero and the one into two distinguishable quantum states. But, because qubits behave quantumly, we can capitalize on the phenomena of "superposition" and "entanglement."

Though "it's OK to be a bit baffled by these concepts," the author adds, the benefits will be concrete: factoring large numbers being one application that current computers find difficult.

Quantum computing research has already seen holograms, "weird-ass outcomes," amazing inspirational artwork, and the eager speculations of venture capitalists such as Steve Jurvetson, who wrote "we may be able to build quantum computers more powerful than the entire universe within 3 years" in a blog post 3 years ago.

At the Smarter Planet blog, IBM's Mark Ritter, one of the scientists behind the paper, writes that we're about to enter a golden age of quantum computing research.

Concurrent with our paper, there are two other articles on related topics from researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara, and the Delft University of Technology, in the Netherlands. This trifecta of scientific achievement shows that the research community is focusing in on the most promising avenues of progress in quantum computing and that advances are now coming at a rapid rate.
Other technology giants like Google and Microsoft have assembled teams of scientists and academics working on quantum computing research. For our part, we're closely aligned with one of the most respected academic researchers in the field, David DiVincenzo, a professor at RWTH Aachen University in Germany, who was a research staff member of IBM Research from 1985 to 2011. While he was still at IBM, David laid out the criteria that must be met by any practical quantum computer.

Meanwhile, electrical engineers at the University of New South Wales are attempting to build a silicon-based quantum computer.

Last year the UNSW team showed they can write, read and store the spin of a single quantum bit with better than 99.99% accuracy using a magnetic field. But to carry out complex calculations, a quantum computer needs thousands, or even millions of quantum bits, that can all be individually controlled. And for that, the high frequency oscillating magnetic fields Morello has been using to master the control of a single quantum bit are not suitable.

Newsweek anticipates that quantum computers will soon transform the business world, quoting one entrepreneur in identifying cryptography, financial services and genome analysis as three disciplines that would be revolutionized by a significant advance in computational power.

Any business or activity that relies on searching, crunching and storing large volumes of data will soar. The term "needle in a haystack" will become irrelevant. Sectors where demand exists include financial markets, insurance, intelligence, cyber-security, internet, medicinal and pharmaceutical research, defence, energy, database management, logistics and communications – ie the entire modern economy. Quantum computers will redefine "real-world".

Business Insider offers 7 awesome ways quantum computers will change the world.

3. No more traffic nightmares

Never again! Still confused? The University of Cambridge's simple, plain-talking infographic will set you straight:


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