Published On: Fri, Sep 9th, 2011

Quantum Computers : The next generation of computing

A quantum computer is a device for computation that makes direct use of quantum mechanical phenomena, such as superposition and entanglement, to perform operations on data. Quantum computers will harness the power of atoms and molecules to perform memory and processing tasks. Quantum computers are different from normal computers that uses transistors and store the data in binary form i.e. 0s and 1s. Quantum computer uses quantum properties to represent data and perform operations on these data.

Quantum Computers are still very much only in books but some achievement has been achieved on performing small operations on these “qubits”.

Large-scale quantum computers could be able to solve certain problems much faster than any classical computer by using the best currently known algorithms, like integer factorization using Shor’s algorithm or the simulation of quantum many-body systems. There exist quantum algorithms, such as Simon’s algorithm, which run faster than any possible probabilistic classical algorithm.

Shor’s Algorithm: This algo is basically used for the integer factorization and is able to calculate the prime factor of any given number, N in polynomial time. This is largely used in data encryption and protection where the prime requirement is to find the prime numbers. You can see a very good representation of the shor’s algo here is.

Simon Algorithm: Aner probabilistic algo that is black box behaviour of the things. This includes the string and expression matching, complex Fourier transforms and much more.

How is data represented in quantum computing and how is this different from normal computers ?

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A classical computer has a memory made up of bits, where each bit represents either a one or a zero. A quantum computer maintains a sequence of qubits. A single qubit can represent a one, a zero, or, crucially, any quantum superposition of these; moreover, a pair of qubits can be in any quantum superposition of 4 states, and three qubits in any superposition of 8.

 

In general, thus, the physical state of a qubit is the superposition ψ = α0 + β1(where α and β are complex numbers). The state of a qubit can be described as a vector in a two-dimensional Hilbert space, a complex vector space The special states 0 and 1 are known as the computational basis states, and form an orthonormal basis for this vector space.

 

The Bloch sphere is a representation of a qubit, the fundamental building block of quantum computers. 

Image used under the GNU Free Documentation License 1.2
The Bloch sphere is a representation of a qubit, the fundamental building block of quantum computers.

The Turing machine, developed by Alan Turing in the 1930s, is a theoretical device that consists of tape of unlimited length that is divided into little squares. Each square can either hold a symbol (1 or 0) or be left blank. A read-write device reads these symbols and blanks, which gives the machine its instructions to perform a certain program. Does this sound familiar? Well, in a quantum Turing machine, the difference is that the tape exists in a quantum state, as does the read-write head. This means that the symbols on the tape can be either 0 or 1 or a superposition of 0 and 1; in other words the symbols are both 0 and 1 (and all points in between) at the same time. While a normal Turing machine can only perform one calculation at a time, a quantum Turing machine can perform many calculations at once.

 

Today’s computers, like a Turing machine, work by manipulating bits that exist in one of two states: a 0 or a 1. Quantum computers aren’t limited to two states; they encode information as quantum bits, orqubits, which can exist in superposition. Qubits represent atoms, ions, photons or electrons and their respective control devices that are working together to act as computer memory and a processor. Because a quantum computer can contain these multiple states simultaneously, it has the potential to be millions of times more powerful than today’s most powerful supercomputers.

 

Quantum computers also utilize another aspect of quantum mechanics known as entanglement. One problem with the idea of quantum computers is that if you try to look at the subatomic particles, you could bump them, and thereby change their value. If you look at a qubit in superposition to determine its value, the qubit will assume the value of either 0 or 1, but not both.

 

Can a real quantum computer be made ?

To make a practical quantum computer, scientists have to devise ways of making measurements indirectly to preserve the system’s integrity. Entanglement provides a potential answer. In quantum physics, if you apply an outside force to two atoms, it can cause them to become entangled, and the second atom can take on the properties of the first atom. So if left alone, an atom will spin in all directions. The instant it is disturbed it chooses one spin, or one value; and at the same time, the second entangled atom will choose an opposite spin, or value. This allows scientists to know the value of the qubits without actually looking at them.

 

If functional quantum computers can be built, they will be valuable in factoring large numbers, and therefore extremely useful for decoding and encoding secret information. If one were to be built today, no information on the Internet would be safe. Our current methods of encryption are simple compared to the complicated methods possible in quantum computers. Quantum computers could also be used to search large databases in a fraction of the time that it would take a conventional computer. Other applications could include using quantum computers to study quantum mechanics, or even to design other quantum computers.

 

But quantum computing is still in its early stages of development, and many computer scientists believe the technology needed to create a practical quantum computer is years away. Quantum computers must have at least several dozen qubits to be able to solve real-world problems, and thus serve as a viable computing method.

About the Author

- I am an android developer, hacker, web developer, professional blogger and a complete tech freak. I love computers and everything related to computers. I love learning new things and sharing the knowledge with the world.




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