/What’s a quantum computer? A paradigm shift is coming – Explica .co (via Qpute.com)

What’s a quantum computer? A paradigm shift is coming – Explica .co (via Qpute.com)

Quantum technologies, including computing, have become a strategic issue. We tell you what a quantum computer is.

What’s a quantum computer?

Countries and companies have announced million-dollar research programs. Just to mention a few, India, the European Union, and the United States have –separately– announced investments of more than 1 billion dollars.

Meanwhile, the Russian government will allocate 663 million dollars and Japan 280 million dollars, but the most ambitious and substantial is China, at 10 billion dollars.

Quantum mechanics, the theory in physics that describes the behavior of atoms and subatomic particles, was described barely a century ago. Although its conceptualization was theoretical, applications were found for it in a matter of decades.

Today, there is talk of quantum computing, quantum information, or quantum sensors.

See more: Lithium in Mexico: the reasons for the heated debate

Bits and qubits.

Traditional computers use bits, the binary language of ones and zeros, as fundamental units of memory.

In quantum computers, the fundamental unit of information is the qubit, or quantum bit, which in quantum systems consists of a low energy level defined as 0 and higher levels of energy defined as 1.

Unlike traditional systems, a qubit can be in any of the infinite intermediate states between 0 and 1, such as a state that is half of 0 and half of 1 or three-quarters of 0 and one-quarter of 1.

This simultaneous superposition and entanglement gives quantum computers a much higher processing power.

Quantum algorithms allow us to perform operations in a completely different way, according to the book Quantum Technologies: Digital Transformation, Social Impact, and Cross-sector Disruption, published by the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB).

What do we expect from this capacity?

One example of the potential of quantum computers is that of defining the route from one point to another on a map, say from the Historic Center of Mexico City to the Archaeological Zone of Teotihuacán. A traditional computer would explore routes one by one until the right path is found. A quantum computer would instead examine all routes simultaneously.

“We know that quantum computing can have a big impact, but we don’t know how big. Many very powerful actors can’t afford to be left behind when it comes to developing this technology, so a lot of companies are trying to set a standard for quantum computing in order to control a large part of the market, ”explains Ernesto fields, a Mexican who’s studying for his PhD at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology in Moscow, Russia.

One illustrative case is the discovery of new molecules for drug design, because they can be modeled more quickly and their interaction in the body can be simulated.

On a quantum computer, it’s very easy to breach encrypted messages, such as those on WhatsApp. Fortunately, the computers that currently exist are research prototypes.

It’s a fact that the combination of quantum devices, applications, and internet will be very safe and practically impossible to hack.

This possibility is very appealing to governments and companies, since security is vital for their stability.

“Banks are interested in this technology because they want to optimize the way they make investments. With a quantum computer, operations will take more risk scenarios into account. Likewise, distribution companies are interested because they’re looking for the shortest routes, ”said Campos, a Tec de Monterrey graduate.

The history of quantum computing

Quantum computing was invented by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the California Institute of Technology, the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, and Russian researchers in the late 1970s.

Their numbers include Richard Feynman, who’s considered one of the fathers of quantum computing.

It wasn’t until 1997 that IBM, along with the MIT Media Lab and the University of Berkeley, developed the first quantum computer with just two qubits. The race to develop machines with more qubits is still on.

The most powerful quantum computer to date was developed by Google and consists of 72 qubits. The next will be from Rigetti computing and will consist of 128 qubits. However, it hasn’t yet been released.

“It’s a phenomenal achievement in the history of humanity,” acknowledges Dr. Salvador Venegas, a professor from Tec de Monterrey’s Department of Computer Science on the State of Mexico Campus. Today’s quantum computers have a level of development comparable to a traditional computer developed in the 50s. It’s a great step forward. “

The pioneer of quantum computing in Mexico points out that we already know how to manipulate different technologies, photons, and atoms. Now, the question is how to make quantum computers with 50 qubits today, 300 tomorrow, and then thousands.

Beyond algorithms, the challenge has to do with engineering, an issue that’s solved with money to buy materials and human capital.

The future

Quantum computers use superconducting systems to build qubits.

They are built at very low temperatures, close to absolute 0, which is why they and other technologies work in refrigerators that are colder than the average temperature of outer space.

That’s one of the reasons why the computers from IBM are in laboratories and cannot be moved.

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