Quantum Computers: Are We There Yet?
Quantum computers sound like a great idea that is too good to be true. It sounds straight out of science fiction, a nerd’s dream, something akin to flying cars and cold fusion. There seems to be no way to actually build one of these magnificent devices. Recent developments have made me rethink the situation.
Quantum computing is, of course, a set of algorithms and processes that use quantum physics to process and store information. Unlike normal computing which only uses quantum mechanics just for hardware; quantum computers use it for everything from the CPU to memory to storage to programming. This quantum nature makes them the ultimate gaming machines. They would possess the power and speed of a thousand or so super computers, but only need to take the form of your average smart phone. These computers would be so fast that they would be able to run a real 24/7 holodeck, without any issues, in your basement. Physicists and mathematicians have been working on the algorithms for years, but there has yet to be any advancement that would move quantum computing from theory to reality, until now that is.
Recently, there has been a lot of activity in the hunt for quantum computing that make me ponder the future. Here are five of such developments that may make science fiction become science fact.
1. Mastering Quantum Mechanics
The first is the ability to control quantum mechanics itself. For this we turn to a team of scientists, from the Laboratory for Quantum Magnetism in Switzerland and the London Centre for Nanotechnology, who managed to quantum mechanically switch on and off the magnetism of a type of transparent salt using an electromagnet containing that salt. The process is non-volatile which means that the magnetic state stays forever until you run the process again! The perfect solution to our quantum computing woes!
2. Quantum Memory
Next up is the development of quantum memory modules. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania announced recently that they had created quantum memory by inducing phase changes in nanotubes without melting them. The two phases they used are distinct enough to represent the 1s and 0s of binary logic. String enough of these phase-changing nanotubes together and you have all the storage you will ever need!
3. Quantum Information Encoding and Retrieval
Now that we have a way to process and store data quantumly, we need a way to read and write the data. For this, we turn to the City College of New York and the University of California Berkeley where light was used to encode information in the spins of atoms. Combine this process with the salt transistors and nanotube memory and you have a working quantum computer.
4. Quantum Wires and Data Transmission
The last piece of the puzzle is transmission between the parts of our quantum computer. We need something fast and reliable. How about light! Researchers at University of Southern California have successfully transmitted data through twisted helical bands of light with a potential bitrate of 3 terabits per second!
5. Biological Computers
Now that we have our quantum computing processors, wires, and memory, we need a lattice to bring them all together. What better lattice to use than one specially made for them! Scientists at the University of California at Santa Barbara have discovered a way to grow computer parts through genetic modified bone cells. These cells can make anything we need from our nanotube wires to processing chips containing our salt, and growing them reduces the chances for error and other mishaps. We just have to be comfortable with having living computers on our desks.
So, there you have it. Everything seems to be filing in to place. All we need is for one enterprising individual to bring it all together. We now have everything we need to construct our first quantum computers. Let’s rejoice in the possibilities. You know I am.