Monday, March 18, 2013

The Implications of Quantum Computing




Over the past half century, computers have significantly revolutionized the world around us.  Computers were originally linked to mathematicians who spent hours, days, months, or even years calculating information.  Since their only job was to compute numbers for a living, they were subsequently referred to as "computers."  The definition of a modern computer is simply this: a machine that can take a set of instructions through a variety of different systems of coding, and process the computations based upon the user’s instructions.  Computer technology began with huge rooms full of computers found in places like NASA that had significantly less computational power than your modern day PlayStation 3.  Nowadays, as most know, we find computers embedded in our daily lives from the smart phones we all treasure, to devices such as GPS units and ATM machines.  Each takes a set of instructions through a user interface which dictates data entry and display, and through an operating system that coordinates hardware, which deals with memory and computational power, and software which are programs that have a set of instructions that tell the user what to do, spits out a solution to the function you wish to perform.  At an ATM, the function you wish to perform is capital withdrawal, capital deposit, and even just simply receiving a statement that indicates your account balance.  Smart phones and laptops are a little more complex in which the user gives the computer a set of instructions, and one by one the computer spits out solutions that reflect the set of instructions that the user wishes to receive. 

Over the past 50 years, the computational power of computers has since exploded.  Moore's law, named after Intel co-founder Gordon E. Moore, indicates that computational power of computers doubles roughly every 2 years or so, or as some refer to it as "the 18th months law."  He proposed this idea back in a 1965 paper on computer technology and computational power.  The law refers to the amount of memory, processing power, and speed at which a computer can operate.  It is also an indication of the amount of pixels a digital picture can have which we can visualize when we look at the progression of our televisions in terms of the brightness and clear picture we see through our high definition televisions.  In the end, the race was on to see how many transistors one could fit on a single circuit to increase the overall power of a system have it be a cell phone, laptop, or tablet.  I read last year that a silicon transistor was made that was 1 electron across measuring at about 1.5 nanometers.  According to leading experts in computer technology though, the doubling power of computational power and memory will soon slowdown in 2013, and computer power will only double every 3 years or so in classical computing.

Now we move onto the future of computational technology in terms of quantum processing.  Quantum computers are measured in what is referred to as qubits.  Binary code, the code used to write commands for hardware is a system of 1's and 0's, meaning that the information in there or it is not there.  Computer engineers use complex algorithms to write code that goes into making commands for our classical computational devices.  The theory of quantum computing states that bits of information can be found in both x=|1>and x=|0>, and both x=|1>,|0> at the same time, or it’s in spin up and spin down simultaneously.  X refers to the qubits of information within binary code.  Physicists use the term bits to describe information on a quantum scale.  Quantum computing uses super positioned qubits that are in the same quantum state: either the angular momentum or (p) is in spin up and spin down in a wave function.  The goal of a quantum information system is to entangle qubits in a closed and bounded system, so that information is sent instantaneously across qubits.  It is quite difficult to maintain such a system due to thermal interference, therefore many experimental quantum computers are kept underground using super-conductors at low temperatures near or close to absolute zero or 0 degrees kelvin.  Experimenters use super-cooled helium as a medium to help resolve the thermal interference, or what is referred to as decoherence.  In quantum electrodynamics, when electrons or any quantum particle for that matter come in close contact with one another, the two particles or collection of particles exchange a virtual photon with one another, and the state of  each particle goes from a higher state of energy(excited) to one of a lower state of energy determined by which particle gives of the photon, and vice-versa.  This is referred to as a probabilistic wave function, which is how a classic computer works by determining the probability that bits of information will be exchanged from one atom to the next using transistors within a given circuit. Since one can only look at an object or particle using light which takes time to view, quantum processing says that the particles in a close and bounded system share information instantly, but because the observer must use light to see the exchange take place, the wave function is probabilistic from an outside observer looking in on the system rather than it being instantly occurring.  As of last week, I read an article in some scientific journal or magazine(the name is not as important as the advances the experimenters made in quantum processing) that a group of scientists were able to make a successful application of quantum entanglement at room temperature with over a billion particles being in the same state for 1 second before the states of each particle collapsed into unlike states, which caused the quantum process to fall apart.  This was such a remarkable achievement, and I truly applaud them for such advancement in the field.

So what are the implications of such processing power for the future?  First and for most, once companies and governments are able to harness the full potential of such computational power and memory, a single quantum computer will be able to process the entire amount of information on the Internet almost instantly.  This means that a single computer will be able to process and spit out every bit of information about everyone and everything on the planet almost instantly.  The only type of computer that breaks a complex algorithm of a quantum computer is another quantum computer with equal or great computational power.  This leaves the average person completely exposed to anyone with this type of computer.  All your personal information will be instantly obtained and embedded within the memory of the quantum processor for anyone with access to the computer to see and use.  At the same time, we will be able to keep our nation's power grids, Internet capabilities, and satellite operations essentially safe from external hackers as long as we are one step of their quantum processor.  THE RACE IS ON TO A COMPUTER DOMINATED WORLD, where 500 qubits of information is equal to 2^500 power of bits of information which absolutely absurd to think about it in terms of memory and processing power.  This calculation is due to the logarithm 2^n which is 2 the power of the amount of bits of information in a closed system. 

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