What is a Quantum Computer? A Quantum computer is one that uses quantum computing, meaning that it uses the principles of quantum mechanics, namely decoherence and amplifiers, to do calculations. Quantum computing is the collective manipulation of large unified states of quantum particles, including entanglement and superposition, to do calculations.
Quantum computers harness the power of the Planck’s Constant to do calculations. When particles are in a state that they call “entanglement” they actually get in contact with each other, so that even when those particles are no longer near each other, their collective energy still exerts a tug.
If you have ever looked at a waterfall or a soccer ball, you may have noticed how much the water flows uphill, due to the Planck’s Constant tugging on the water. Similar effects take place in quantum computers using entangled pairs of particles. With a superposition effect, a single measurement in one entangled pair can give an accurate result, even though there are many measurements in the individual entangled pairs.
How does quantum computing work? Classical computers translate analog signals into digital ones. Digital information is sent through wires to quantum computing processors, which in turn run programs. The output from the processor is not a direct outcome of the interactions between the particles, but derives from the individual probabilities and correlations between the particles’ energy output. For instance, digital information produced by a digital computer program can be compared to a snapshot taken of an electron in motion at one second, and the result can be interpreted as the temperature of that electron at that instant in time, or in other words, the position and velocity of the electron.
The modern interpretation of quantum mechanics relies on its ability to describe the collective behavior of large numbers of quantum particles and to find that they behave in predictable ways. Physicists John clocks and Peter Shanks developed the standard model of quantum computing in the late 1970s and have since worked on refining it. They showed that a classical system can be used to describe the collective behavior of many qubits, and that such systems can in principle work even for highly structured, topologically distinct systems like spin states and hyperbolas. They thus formulated what is now known as the Shanks-Clow law, which states that a classical system with a nonabelian structure can still be used to describe the collective behavior of many qubits, though the exact nature of the structure is uncertain. The Standard Model also predicts that almost every known form of matter will exhibit a strong force field that acts on qubits without sending them off their hinges.
Physicists today know much more about the inner workings of the atom and the far wider universe than they did in the early days of quantum computing. They’ve learned that matter behaves in highly correlated and entangled forms, and that these properties give rise to a great number of experimentally testable predictions. Many of these predictions turn out to be correct, providing strong evidence for the viability of quantum computing. Nowadays, most Physicists believe that the ultimate purpose of quantum computing will be to run it on large-scale quantum computers, to provide us with a truly powerful tool for future science and technology.
The latest development in this field is known as the ‘genetic memory’ approach, named after its discoverer Yull Biercuk. Instead of using classical hardware, he devised a DNA-like network that contains virtual copies of DNA sequences called virtual neurons. These virtual neurons function exactly like real neurons in your body, and Biercuk’s theory thus postulates that if you give a patient a virtual DNA sample, and then ask him to recall all the patterns that this sequence has generated, he would indeed be able to do so. Similarly, virtual computers could in principle “remember” the entire program that a classical computer has developed, given some time. The key to Biercuk’s approach lies in the fact that, rather than computing the entire program in bits, the quantum computer should work on the basis of “brute forces.”
If two people can agree on a certain piece of information and then can apply some amount of physical force, they can use their energy in such a way as to ensure that the information stays together. In the case of quantum computing, it is easy to see how this can be done: once the DNA strands are put into a state that lets them work together, if you apply enough physical force, you will in effect give each virtual neuron the same amount of energy that each one of the strands had while at rest. This ensures that, when the force that produces the virtual particles comes into contact with the DNA, it will be absorbed and cease to affect the DNA material, preserving the information for eternity. The beauty of this, and of Biercuk’s approach to quantum computing, are that the system doesn’t need to run continuously: it doesn’t need to stop working just because someone stops feeding it to bits. In other words, there is no “wiring” necessary to make the system run, and therefore no limits to the applications that can be brought to the system.
Now that Biercuk and Katz have demonstrated that it is entirely possible to build a universal quantum computer, the next step might just be to get a PhD from a school that is dedicated to this field. After all, who better to learn the ropes from than the gurus themselves? There are a number of schools out there specializing in this field, so if you have a PhD in hand in the near future, all you would have to do is take a few classes at one of the schools and you’ll be well on your way to becoming the next Albert Einstein or Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. For more information on these schools, visit the links below.