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We're Closer Than Ever To Being Close To Quantum Computing

The dream of a future where quantum computers are able to cipher high volumes of information simultaneously at incredible speeds--bursting through the silicon barrier--has been prolonged for decades. Today, high speed computers operate in binary and...
October 28, 2011, 7:30pm

The dream of a future where quantum computers are able to cipher high volumes of information simultaneously at incredible speeds—bursting through the silicon barrier—has been prolonged for decades. Today, high speed computers operate in binary and process bits of information linearly, which is really no different than ye olde vacuum tube-powered computers of yesteryear.

Enter quantum computation, where the primary unit of information — a qubit — exists in multiple forms simultaneously in a state of quantum parallelism. Until now, this phenomena has eluded scientists and engineers who've run into difficulties creating enough similarity and consistency between photons in order to communicate bits of information.

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But that’s all changed thanks to some physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) who recently created a system that proves the possibility of a quantum computer network.

It involves two qubits communicating via a SQUID, or superconducting quantum interference device. It marks the first time a quantum system with some degree of processing has been assembled. You see, quantum computing needs to exist in a practically solid state. Qubits don’t. Circumventing this debacle requires quantum entanglement, or forcing qubits to exist on the same plane simultaneously.

This corny video actually provides a really helpful explanation of quantum entanglement.

As Glenn Solomon of NIST’s Quantum Measurement Division describes:

“We manipulate the photons to be as indistinguishable as possible in terms of spectra, location and polarization—the details you need to describe a photon. We attribute the remaining distinguishability to properties of the quantum dot. No conceivable measurement can tell indistinguishable photons apart. The results prove in principle that a hybrid quantum network is possible and can be scaled up for use in a quantum network.”

In other words, don’t expect to throw out your Mac or PC and replace it with an atomically driven super-computer just yet. But look forward to talking about SQUIDS and qubits in the not so distant future as easily as we talk about hardrives and processors today.

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