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  • Scientists at Microsoft and their partners around the world have spent the last decade

  • exploring the exciting and utterly bizarre place where computer science and quantum physics

  • collide. So where's that, exactly?

  • Think about quantum computing like a subway map with two train lines--the Quantum Physics

  • Local and the Computer Science Express--coming from different directions to meet at a central

  • hub: Station Q. On the map, the two lines meet and continue

  • forward together, though no one knows exactly where they're headed.

  • Thanks to brilliant minds from Newton to Einstein, we have a pretty solid understanding of matter,

  • motion, time, space, and how the universe generally functions. But over the last hundred

  • or so years, scientists looking closely at life on an atomic and sub-atomic level started

  • noticing some inconsistencies with traditional physics. Questions and theories started piling

  • up about how and why particles seem to behave predictably on a large scale (like plants

  • and birds and rocks and things), but on a nanoscale it's, well, particles gone wild.

  • It turns out that behaviors that seem impossible to imagine on a human scale are downright

  • pedestrian at a molecular level. Down there, particles - little balls of solid matter - act

  • like waves. Particles teleport from one place to another, and can also become "entangled,"

  • making it impossible to separate them. In a quantum state, particles can even achieve

  • something we call superposition, where they exist in multiple states simultaneously.

  • You've ridden this line many times before. You know that the laptop on your desk, the

  • smartphone in your hand, and the tablet in your bag all work with information in the

  • form of bits. Bits, which can be either a 1 or a 0, are arranged in long, artful strings

  • to get computers to do all sorts of things, like sequence DNA or fling angry little birds

  • at pig-built fortresses. But classical computers have limits to their

  • problem-solving prowess. There are some problems so difficult that even if all the computers

  • in the world worked on the problem in tandem it would still take them a very long time

  • to solve it. So here's where things REALLY get interesting

  • and where quantum computing could come in handy. Quantum computers run on quantum bits,

  • or qubits. Because of the mind-bending properties of a quantum state, like superposition, a

  • qubit can be a 1 or a 0 - or it can exist as a 1 and a 0 at the same time. If one qubit,

  • as a 1 and a 0, can do two calculations, then two qubits can do four, four can do eight,

  • and the computing power has the potential to grow exponentially.

  • With long strings of qubits performing computations, problems that would take today's computers

  • eons to solve could be tackled in the time it takes to grab a cup of coffee.

  • This could have wildest imagination-type applications in fields such as machine learning and medicine,

  • chemistry and cryptography, materials science and engineering. And could allow humans to

  • understand and control the very building blocks of the universe.

Scientists at Microsoft and their partners around the world have spent the last decade

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B2 quantum qubits quantum computing computing qubit superposition

Quantum Computing 101

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    eng posted on 2017/03/24
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