Friday, January 13, 2006

A Leap in Quantum Computing

Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a quantum computer chip. The chip, based on the theories of quantum mechanics, has a captured atom inside that can be controlled by electric signals. This could lead to a whole new generation of supercomputers.
As of yet, the technology is not applicable to typical desktop PCs or servers, but quantum computers are said to be promising because they can solve complicated problems using massively parallel computing.

That is accomplished by the quirky nature of quantum mechanics, said Christopher Monroe, a physics professor and the principal investigator and co-author of the paper "Ion Trap in a Semiconductor Chip." He explained that that chips can process multiple inputs at the same time in the same device.

"With quantum mechanics, an object can be in two places at the same time, as long as you don't look at it," he said. The quantum computer architecture can store quantum bits (qubits) of information, where each qubit can hold the numbers one or zero, or even both digits simultaneously.

Uh-huh. Yeah. Nothing makes me feel quite as stupid as does quantum mechanics. Frankly, the whole thing sounds like magic (and speaking of, isn’t qubit the game they play in Harry Potter?).

But it’s not magic. It’s real. And it looks like it has finally found a practical application. I can hardly imagine what the future in computing holds for us as a people. We are quite likely still in the bronze age of computing, the future as impossible for us to imagine as the airplane would have been to prehistoric man.

That could be overstating it, but somehow I doubt it.

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