Quantum computing news excites the three people that understand it

“Dude, you’re getting a quantum computer!” I can hear the TV commercial now… though I wish I didn’t. Alright, alright, I know quantum tablets are still the thing of dreams, but there’s new hype suggesting that quantum computing will become more mainstream in the coming years.

Both Google and IBM have recently announced that progress has been made on commercially viable quantum computer systems, and IBM has even claimed it will have one ready by the close of 2018. Woah! Right now quantum computers are the thing of lab nerds, like the ones over at D-Wave. These things look just like super computers (duh), taking up entire rooms. Some geek told me that most of that equipment is for support, such as the cooling system that keeps the processor at a balmy -460F.

IBM quantum computer
Quantum computers right now are, like, really big. Source: IBM.

Despite technically being around for a few years now, the special needs of the quantum machine, and the various engineering challenges of scaling up and creating a new set of programs that can make use of quantum bits (qbits), has kept it off Radioshack shelves. Also, the fact that Radioshack doesn’t have shelves anymore…

A picture of a qbit. Just kidding… but this is the heart of a quantum computer. Source: IBM, again.

So, what are qbits, you ask? Heck if I know. All I can tell you is that they are an alternative to regular ‘ol bits, and use freaky quantum physics to add a third state known as “superposition” to the regular 1/0 or yes/no computing language. Rumor has it that this allows quantum computers to consider more possibilities and crunch a heck of a lot more data per unit time. Not surprisingly then, quantum computers would be well-suited to tackling that pesky “traveling salesman” problem you’ve been working on, or figuring out the meaning of life.

Though it’s not entirely clear where this technology is going yet, it’ll go somewhere… and perhaps, someday, even to your desktop.

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