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Quantum Computing Promises New Insights, Not Just Supermachines

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Scott Aaronson

MIT professor Scott Aaronson

U.S. National Science Foundation

Today's quantum computer researchers have a solid blueprint for a new type of computer that could solve certain problems in seconds that would probably take millennia for conventional computers to solve, writes Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Scott Aaronson. However, some of the required construction materials do not exist yet.

Aaronson says the two main examples of practical quantum computing are simulating the behavior of atoms and molecules, and breaking certain cryptographic codes. However, simulating quantum physics and chemistry, which are not yet possible, are the applications that have the potential to revolutionize fields such as nanotechnology and drug design.

He says the problem with solving these types of problems is decoherence, which involves stray interactions that intrude prematurely on the computer's quantum state, forcing it to collapse.

Although truly useful quantum computers might be decades away from development, many of the payoffs are already arriving. Techniques invented to understand quantum algorithms have proved useful for understanding conventional algorithms, and quantum computing ideas also have influenced chemistry and physics.

From New York Times
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Abstracts Copyright © 2011 Information Inc. External Link, Bethesda, Maryland, USA 


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