Frontiers of Science Quantum Computers

Piilonen: Quantum Computing has the potential to really revolutionize the way that we think about computing.

What’s the computer of the future going to be like? You might say, it’s going to take a quantum leap. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

Piilonen: A quantum computer is a computer that takes advantage of quantum physics to explore many different possibilities simultaneously.

Physicist Leo Piilonen.

Piilonen: And so, we’re taking advantage of that behavior of quantum mechanics to be able to explore many different possibilities all at once. And so, that compresses in time how long it takes for a quantum computer to make a calculation compared to going through all the possibilities step by step, serially, in an ordinary computer.

For instance, a quantum computer might be asked to decrypt a message. Normally, the way that encryption works to keep secrets in transferring from Person A to Person B, you apply a mathematical algorithm to it that scrambles the information that you have and does it in a way that an eavesdropper could not de-scramble it.

Ordinary computers, the only way that they can do it is to take a long time and doing lots of complicated calculations to try to decrypt that message. If you had a quantum computer, it’s entirely within the realm of possibility to imagine that that quantum computer can decrypt the message in a few seconds.

A quantum computer would not necessarily provide one answer, but a set of probable answers.

Piilonen: The possibilities for the final decrypted message from a quantum computer can go from, “The enemy arrives at 11:00 AM,” or, “The enemy arrives at 10:59 AM” something along those lines. It’s not a unique answer at the end, but it’s an answer that, depending on how good your quantum computer is, you can decrease the fuzziness of your answer to the point where it’s of value to you.

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