Quantum Computers

The Next Generation of Computing: Quantum Computers

Discovery Place Science

Why should we care about the next generation of computers called quantum computers?

Before we can answer that question, we need to understand the types of problems a classical computer has trouble solving: combinatorial problem sets.

What are combinatorial problems? Is it some type of abstract mathematics equation that we never use? No, in fact, most people will use them every day in combination locks, keys to their home, email passwords and encryption for purchasing information when shopping online.

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Each dial on a combination lock makes the lock harder to crack. There is a 1 in 10 chance of guessing it correctly on the first dial. If we add a second dial, we change the odds to 1 out of 100 chances, the third becomes 1 in 1000 and so on.

An RSA 2048-bit encryption (a cryptosystem widely used for secure data transmission) will require a classical computer for over 1 trillion years to crack the encryption. However, a theoretically perfect quantum computer can solve the problem in 10 seconds!

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Classical computers were designed in a Newtonian/Einstein physical world model. When we flip a coin, it is "heads" or "tails."

But is there a physical world where the outcome is "heads" and "tails" simultaneously? Yes, there is! The concept is called superposition in quantum physics.

To understand quantum computing, let's look at quantum bit binary equivalency to our traditional computer bit. The following table highlights the data equivalence of Qubits vs. Bits:

Qubitvs Bit

The table shows that the processing power efficiency pattern exponentially increases as each Qubit is added.

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The classical laws of physics no longer apply to extremely small objects on a sub-atomic scale. Scientists worldwide are leveraging the laws of quantum physics to build the next generation of computers.

Richard Feynman, a noted physicist, stated, "If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics."

Besides a quantum computer's ability to crack encryption, a new world of simultaneous simulation of different molecular substance interactions can be modeled. Recent breakthroughs in medicine, material science, artificial intelligence and global warming remediation may well be on the way with the help of quantum computing!

Plan a visit to Discovery Place Science and learn more about the science behind computing with interactive labs and hands-on activities.