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what is quantum computing

What Is Quantum Computing?

Quantum computing uses quantum mechanics to massively enhance the capacity of computers. It is currently only employed to solve certain problems in special supercomputers, as certain computational problems can be processed more efficiently with quantum algorithms.

Classical computations, or our current normal computers, encode information in bits that have the value of either 1 or 0. This binary restriction limits their computational capacity, but quantum computing uses the ability of subatomic particles to exist in more than one state at the same time.

Let’s dive a little deeper into how quantum computing works.

How Quantum Computing Works

To know how quantum computing works, one simply needs to understand that ‘superposition’ means the ability of a quantum particle to be in multiple states at the same time until it is measured, and that ‘quantum entanglement’ is a physical phenomenon describing a situation where the quantum state of each particle in a group of particles sharing spatial proximity cannot be described independently of the state of the other particles. Pretty simple, really.

In computing, the aspects of the quantum theory described above affect the 1s and 0s that current classical computers use to encode data. The 1s and 0s are bits, but quantum super computers will encode data in qubits. Qubits can be 1 or 0, but also 1 and 0 at the same time. Being 1 and 0 at the same time is the superposition of both the 1 and 0.

Superposition and entanglement are the two aspects of quantum physics that quantum super computers are based on. They enable exponentially faster, higher and more complex computations than classical computers while consuming less energy.

It is easy to see why the likes of Google and IBM are racing to develop a commercially viable quantum computer. Current supercomputer sizes are still rather large at about the size of a domestic refrigerator, plus about double that for the control electronics. However, it is worth remembering that in 1956, a 5MB hard drive was about the size of a large closet and had to be moved with a forklift truck.

Potential Applications

One of the potential applications for quantum computing is machine learning. Quantum machine learning algorithms will be used to compute enormous quantities of data using qubits and specialized quantum systems to improve computational speed and data storage.

Computational biology is another beneficiary, especially in the field of genomics. For example, quantum computing will massively reduce the time it takes to sequence a human genome.

You will also see cryptography, quantum simulations, annealing and adiabatic optimization take huge strides ahead thanks to this technology. Computer-aided drug design and generative chemistry will also benefit from the new breed of supercomputer. Gamers can get excited too, as video game design and play mechanics will also be greatly improved upon.

The possibilities beyond here could be practically endless.

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