Quantum computing has been making headlines more and more lately as scientists zero-in on a way to realize its potential. But what is quantum computing, and why is it so desirable?
To understand this, it helps to first think about the shortcomings of the computers and the Internet we currently use. Today’s personal computers store information in bits, each of which has a value of either zero or one at any given point in time. Quantum computers, however, store information in quantum systems called qubits, which can have a value of zero, one, or both zero and one. That’s thanks to a strange characteristic of the quantum world known as “superposition,” which allows quantum systems to exist in multiple states simultaneously — they only snap into one state when we observe or measure them.
The ability to be in multiple states at once allows qubits to store and process more information than bits — for every qubit you add to a quantum computer, you double its processing power. That means a quantum computer with enough qubits could solve computing problems that are currently impossible for classical computers to process quickly enough to be useful. It also means you can transmit information more securely than ever, which is huge considering the leaky nature of computing systems today.
So, how close are we to an Internet based upon quantum computing? While that’s hard to say, scientists have made huge steps forward in recent months. The first big step came after scientists announced they’d built a 52-mile-long “quantum loop” in the suburbs of Chicago, which is meant to serve as a testbed for the types of experiments needed to build a functional quantum Internet. The second big step happened this month after a team of scientists from Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago has revealed that it has successfully entangled two photons across the loop.
We understand if all this computer jargon is hard to wrap your head around, but if you’re curious to know more about quantum computing, take a look right here.