Quantum Computers

Quantum Computers

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Quantum Computers


The beginning of quantum computers came at the turn of the twentieth century when there was a scientific revolution and quantum mechanics was born. Quantum computers are based off of the mathematical framework of quantum mechanics and have a multitude of uses that are applicable in today’s world and the futures. Quantum computers have the possibility of processing numerous complicated efficient algorithms at one time by harnessing the power of the atom. Current quantum computers have the ability to be used in today’s world, however, their true power has not yet been harnessed because several complications with the use of atoms.

The modern theory of quantum mechanics was born in the 1920’s. Quantum mechanics is a mathematical framework or set of rules for the construction of physical theories and is the foundation of the quantum computer. It is an indispensable part of science and has been applied to the structure of the atom, nuclear fusion in stars, superconductors, the structure of DNA, and the elementary particles of nature (Nielsen 2).
Since the 1970’s developments in techniques for controlling single quantum systems have occurred. For example there have been methods developed for trapping a single atom in an ‘atom trap’, which isolates the atom from the rest of the world and allows scientists to probe many different aspects of its behavior with incredible precision. These methods help explore untouched regimes of nature in the hope of discovering new and unexpected phenomena. The ability to control single quantum systems is essential to harnessing the power of quantum mechanics for applications to quantum computation and quantum information (Nielsen 3).

In 1982 Richard Feynmen considered simulation of quantum mechanical objects by other quantum systems. In 1985 David Deutsch wrote a crucial theoretical paper in which he described a universal quantum computer which uncovered the unusual power of quantum computation. In 1994 Peter Shore devised the first quantum algorithm that could perform efficient factorization which underpins the security of all encrypted information (QUBIT).
The discovery of quantum mechanics was revolutionary because it is counter-intuitive to classical physics. For example, if person A is standing on a train going twenty miles per hour with a flashlight pointed straight ahead and person B is stationary on the ground with a flashlight pointing the same direction as person A, one would think that the light coming out of the flashlight of person A is twenty miles per hour faster than the light coming out of the flashlight being held by person B.

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But in actuality the speed is the same because the speed of light is a constant, this is counter-intuitive. The reason quantum mechanics is so important to computers is that quantum mechanics dictates what happens on the atom level and quantum computers function on an atomic level.
Coherent superposition is an area of quantum mechanics which is the foundation for quantum computers. Normal computers today function with of binary code held in bits. Each bit can only hold zero or one. However with coherent superposition a qubit can hold both zero and one at the same time (QUBIT). This allows for an incredible speed difference between the two and extraordinary difference in the processing of complicated algorithms.

An 8-bit digital computer can exist in only one of 256 states at a time while an eight bit quantum computer can exist in all 256 states at a time. Theoretically it can also work on 256 calculations at once (quantum parallelism). Each of the 256 numbers in an 8-bit quantum computer has an equal probability of being measured so that a quantum processor functions as a random number generator. A classical digital computer would have to operate on each number from 0 to 255 while quantum computers require only one pass through the "processor", which radically reduces calculation time (QUBIT).
Two problems make the construction of new quantum algorithms a challenging problem for the future. The first problem is that our human intuition is rooted in the classical world. If this intuition is used to create algorithms, these algorithmic ideas will be classical ideas. The second is that people may create classical algorithms because some of these algorithms have comparable performance characteristic, however, algorithms that make use of truly quantum aspects of quantum mechanics need to be found because then a quantum computer would be functioning to its full ability (Nielsen 7).

Another problem with quantum computers is that called decoherence. A quantum computer cannot be more than a few bits in size otherwise useful information will dissipate into the environment. There are no systems that can prevent decoherence yet, consequently quantum computers are currently limited to a few bits of information. Some physicists believe that quantum computers will never get very large because they believe that decoherence will never be reduced to the point where more than a few quantum computational steps can be performed. However, recently a five bit quantum computer has been made. (QUBIT).

One of the major applications of quantum computers in the future will be to perform simulations of quantum mechanical systems too difficult to simulate on a classical computer (Nielsen 7). The advantage of quantum computers is that they can advance of beyond the point where silicon chips cannot advance anymore. Another application of quantum computers deals with cryptology. Modern cryptology is mostly based off of factorization, and the idea that factoring large numbers is near impossible without another number to factor it with. Quantum computers can factor large numbers in a short amount of time, whereas modern computers would take years to do the same (Erkert). Therefore quantum computers are extremely effective with code breaking and code making.
Quantum computers could revolutionize our world. They apply to almost all sciences and businesses. Cryptography could be revolutionized as well. However this is a double-edged sword because with an increase in factorization efficiency, it would be easier to crack these codes, thus threatening our economy and national security. The creation of a fully functional and optimized quantum computer could create problems equivalent to that of human cloning.

Bibliography

Erkert, Artur The Physics of Quantum Information. Germany: BertelsmannSpringer 2000

Nielsen, Michael A. & Isaac L. Chuang Quantum Computation and Quantum Information. Cambridge: University Press 2000

QUBIT. A Short Introduction to Quantum Computation. www.qubit.org/intros/comp/comp.html 1996
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