While everyone is absorbed in the potential of AI and the immersive experiences of augmented and virtual reality, there’s an innovation quietly emerging—one that promises to redefine the very foundation of computing. Quantum computing, the unsung hero of our technological era, deserves its moment in the spotlight. Amidst the fervor surrounding other cutting-edge technologies, quantum computing is the quiet disruptor, the underappreciated genius, and the next big thing, often overlooked, hidden in the shadows far from mainstream discussions.
But why focus on quantum computing when we’re flooded with talk of the latest tech marvels and the capabilities of supercomputers? Well, the answer is simple: there are crucial problems in our world today that demand solutions beyond what even the most cutting-edge technology and supercomputers can provide. Quantum computing isn’t just an exciting idea; it’s a practical necessity for tackling these challenges. To understand why we need quantum computing, let’s explore the critical issues it can address and how it surpasses even the most advanced tech and supercomputers. So, let’s dive in and ask: why is quantum computing essential in our ever-evolving world?
Why is Quantum Computing Essential?
All the digital devices that surround us, such as PCs, laptops, smartphones, and tablets, are computing devices. This means they perform computations based on mathematics and are categorized as classical computers. They may appear modern to us, but the technology that powers classical computing is 20th-century transistor technology that relies on bits. Even supercomputers are binary code-based machines, where units of information can be stored only in bit values: 0s or 1s.
Quantum computing is built on quantum bits, or qubits, which can represent zero, one, or any combination of both simultaneously (called superposition). I know this may feel odd, but in the microscopic world at the level of individual atoms, the laws of physics are different from our everyday life.
Quantum physicist Sir. Shohini Ghose has likened the difference between quantum and classical computing to light bulbs and candles: “The light bulb isn’t just a better candle; it’s something completely different.”
Okay, so why are qubits considered superior to bits?
Let’s say we have two large numbers, 9854 and 6789, and we want to multiply them.
We can easily get the answer: 66898806. Now, imagine we have the answer 66898806 but want to find out what two numbers we need to multiply to get this result. A bit hard (pun intended) but not impossible.
In this type of complex computation, quantum computers can use the superposition property of qubits to perform calculations much faster. Classical computers handle problems with multiple variables by recalculating each time a variable changes, following a single path to a single result. In contrast, quantum computers, thanks to their expanded working capacity, can simultaneously explore an enormous number of paths. This capability makes quantum computers potentially much faster than classical ones.
Limitations of current computers:
– Parallel Processing: Classical computers have limited parallel processing capabilities, which may restrict the performance of certain tasks. Quantum computers can perform computations on many possible solutions simultaneously due to the superposition property of qubits.
– Optimization: For complex optimization problems, classical computers run algorithms that seek out the best possible solutions, but these problems quickly become incredibly difficult and computationally costly.
– Technology: The circuits used in today’s computers operate based on classical physics, whereas Quantum computers are based on Quantum mechanics
The initial tangible evidence that quantum computers can tackle problems beyond the capabilities of classical computers emerged in 2019 when Google revealed a significant breakthrough achieved by its quantum computer: it solved a problem in 200 seconds that would have taken the world’s fastest supercomputer 10,000 years. Though IBM argued that the problem can be solved by a supercomputer with additional disk storage in just 2.5 days, it is still 18,000 times faster.\
Michio Kaku, a famous theoretical physicist, said, “Transistors are based on 0s and 1s, but reality is not. Reality is based on electrons and particles, and these particles, in turn, act like waves. So, you have to have a new set of mathematics to discuss the waves that make up a molecule, and that’s where Quantum Computers come in.”
What is Quantum Computing?
Quantum computing is a cutting-edge field that encompasses aspects of computer science, physics, and mathematics, harnessing the principles of quantum mechanics to solve complex problems faster than classical computers. Quantum computing leverages the dual nature of matter, exhibiting both particle and wave properties at the atomic and subatomic scale. Specialized hardware is employed to prepare and control quantum states, exploiting the unique phenomena of superposition and entanglement to perform calculations that are impossible for classical computers.
To fully understand quantum computing, we must learn some key terms first.
In classical computers, bits serve as the fundamental units for processing within the machine’s processor. In contrast, quantum processors achieve their computational tasks by handling qubits, analogous to how classical processors handle bits.
In classical computing, a bit is symbolized by an electronic signal, capable of being in either an ‘on’ state (1) or an ‘off’ state (0). In contrast, a qubit can represent either 0, 1, or even exist in a superposition, where it simultaneously holds both the 0 and 1 states, essentially encompassing all possible points in between.
Superposition is a fundamental concept in quantum computing that allows qubits to exist in multiple states simultaneously until it is measured. Think of it like a spinning coin that’s in a state of both heads and tails until you observe it. Similarly, a qubit in superposition can represent multiple possibilities until it’s measured, collapsing into one of the possible states.
When two or more qubits become entangled, their quantum states become interconnected in such a way that the state of one qubit is dependent on the state of the others, despite being physically far distant from each other. Imagine you have two entangled dice, and each dice has three sides (instead of six). If you roll one die and it shows a “1,” the other die will always show a “1” as well, no matter how far apart they are. Einstein famously described this phenomenon as “spooky action at a distance.”
Entanglement improves the processing speed of quantum computers. The act of doubling the qubit count won’t necessarily double the number of processes, as processing one qubit can reveal information about multiple qubits.
Quantum interference arises from the phenomenon of wave-particle duality, which manifests when particles at the subatomic level exhibit wave-like characteristics. These waves can interact so that, when the system is measured, some outcomes are more likely and other outcomes are less likely. This is known as an interference pattern. When waves combine to reinforce each other, it’s termed constructive interference; conversely, when they merge to weaken or cancel each other, it’s termed destructive interference. Qubits are highly sensitive to their environment, and even a small disturbance can cause error in computation. Interference helps to improve qubit stability by cancelling out external noise.
Decoherence is a process in which the environment interacts with the qubits, uncontrollably changing their quantum states and causing the loss of information stored in the quantum computer. Decoherence can result from various environmental factors, such as fluctuating magnetic and electric fields, light, sound, vibrations, heat, radiation emitted by nearby warm objects, interference between qubits, or even the act of measuring a qubit.
How does a Quantum Computer Work?
As we have learned, quantum computers perform all their processing using qubits, and qubits are always in a state of superposition, meaning they can be in any random state when observed. For practical usage, we desire a system that consistently provides the correct answer to a question rather than a random one. To achieve this, quantum interference is employed.
Let’s understand this concept with a basic example. Suppose we want to add two numbers: 5 and 5. In the case of a classical computer, we input 5 and 5; the CPU calculates the answer and provides an output of 10.
However, in the case of a Quantum Computer, when we input the numbers, during processing, all possible answers exist in superposition. When observed, there is a possibility of obtaining any random answer (in wave form), which could be 12, 500, 10, 118, 8, 67, or other values. Thus, we need to apply destructive interference to eliminate all incorrect answers and constructive interference to amplify the probability of obtaining the correct answer.
During interference, qubits remain in superposition, but when this superposition eventually collapses, we have a much higher probability of obtaining the correct answer.
Although this is just a happy scenario in real world there is a big challenge of decoherence, where quantum states become vulnerable to external influences. To counteract decoherence, deep freezing, or cooling quantum computers to near absolute zero, is essential. This extreme cooling helps maintain the delicate quantum properties of qubits, allowing quantum computers to function as intended and produce accurate results.
Furthermore, a key question arises: How can quantum interference be applied without succumbing to the effects of decoherence? The answer lies in the careful orchestration of electrical pulses applied to the qubits based on certain algorithms. These electrical pulses manipulate the quantum states of the qubits, enabling constructive interference to enhance the probability of obtaining the correct answer while simultaneously suppressing destructive interference. This precise control over the qubits is critical in harnessing their quantum properties to perform complex calculations efficiently, all while minimizing the impact of decoherence and environmental disturbances.
When Quantum Computer Will Be Ready For Usage?
The timeline for quantum computer availability is uncertain, but it is generally agreed that they will not be widely available to consumers for at least a decade. Quantum computers are still in their early stages of development, and there are a number of challenges that need to be overcome before they can be scaled up and made commercially viable.
One of the biggest challenges is building quantum computers that are stable and reliable. Quantum states are very fragile, and they can be easily disrupted by even the smallest environmental fluctuations. Another challenge is developing software for quantum computers. Quantum algorithms are very different from classical algorithms, and they need to be specially designed to take advantage of the unique properties of quantum mechanics.
Quantum supremacy is achieved when a quantum computer can perform a task that is impossible for a classical computer to do in a reasonable amount of time. This was first achieved in 2019 by Google, using a 53-qubit quantum computer to perform a random circuit sampling task in 200 seconds. Quantum supremacy is a significant milestone, but it is important to note that it does not mean that quantum computers are ready for commercial use. Quantum computers are still in their early stages of development, and they need to be much more powerful and reliable before they can be used to solve real-world problems.
Applications of Quantum Computer
– Artificial Intelligence: Quantum computing has the potential to enhance AI algorithms by speeding up training processes. Now this can be quite beneficial for every artificial intelligence development serviceprovider. The groundbreaking tech can reduce development expenditure, allow them to offer advance AI enabled solutions, and revolutionize problem solving using AI. Sure there are challenges but overcoming them can empower them to come one step closer to quantum powered AI ecosystem.
– Cryptography: Quantum computers can break widely used encryption methods such as RSA and ECC, In response researchers are actively working on developing quantum-resistant cryptography.
– Machine Learning: Quantum machine learning algorithms can enhance the training of machine learning models, particularly for tasks like pattern recognition, optimization, and data analysis.
– Optimization: Quantum computers can efficiently solve complex optimization problems, which have applications in logistics, supply chain management, financial portfolio optimization, and more.
– Drug Discovery and Molecular Modeling: Quantum computers can simulate molecular and chemical interactions with high precision
– Material Science: Quantum computers can help researchers discover and design new materials with unique properties
Certainly, the potential applications of quantum computers are not limited to our current understanding, and historically, new technologies have often exceeded initial expectations. Just as the inventors of classical computers couldn’t foresee the internet, the full range of quantum computing applications may extend beyond our current imagination.
Limitations of Quantum Computing
– High error rates: Quantum computers are very sensitive to noise and errors. This is because quantum states are very fragile and can be easily disrupted by even the smallest environmental fluctuations.
– Limited qubit count: Present-day quantum computers have a limited number of qubits. This is because qubits are very difficult to build and maintain.
– Lack of software: Quantum computers require specialized software. There is currently a shortage of quantum software developers, and it is difficult to develop and debug quantum algorithms.
– High cost: Quantum computers are very expensive to build and operate. This is because they require specialized hardware and extremely low temperatures, typically near absolute zero (-273.15°C), to reduce interference from thermal noise.
In conclusion, quantum computing is not just a topic of scientific curiosity; it is a technological frontier that promises to revolutionize our world in ways we can only begin to imagine. In a world of rapid technological evolution, quantum computing is a symbol of innovation and limitless potential. As we journey into this unknown territory, let’s eagerly anticipate the remarkable discoveries and transformations that lie ahead.
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