Quantum physics, with its descriptions of bizarre properties like entanglement and superposition, can sound like a science fiction fever dream. Yet this branch of physics, no matter how counterintuitive it seems sometimes, describes the universe all around us: As physicists have told often told me, we live in a quantum world. Soon, this will be better reflected in our technology, and everything it can do.
"We're moving towards a new paradigm for computation," quantum information scientist Michele Mosca, who's based at the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo, recently told me. He compared this shift in thinking to when humanity abandoned the flat Earth hypothesis and accepted that our world is round.
"We realized that [our pictures of the surface of the Earth] should embed on a sphere, not a flat surface," he said. "Now our maps make sense." Before, we were looking at them the wrong way, and the picture was distorted. Not anymore.
This new quantum paradigm "brings new possibilities," Mosca continued, "for computing, for communication, for sensing and measuring."
In a public lecture delivered on Wednesday from the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, Mosca will describe the "new quantum era" and the promises and challenges it brings. Take, for example, public key cryptography that is used to protect secret communications around the world. When the first true quantum computer powers up, maybe a decade from now, it's predicted that it will be able to crack this type of encryption, no problem. Mosca has been urging governments and corporations to start planning for this.
Mosca's talk, which begins at 7 pm E.S.T., will be livestreamed here on Motherboard. If you have questions about the future of quantum, scientists will be answering at Perimeter's Facebook page or on Twitter, using the hashtag #piLIVE.
Get six of our favorite Motherboard stories every day by signing up for our newsletter.