It's another level of technology compared to the computers we are all used to. Giving the world quantum computing will change how computers operate on a fundamental level. Everything will pretty much have to start again, new languages, new models, and new research.
Computers of the modern day work on a voltage based system in which there is either a voltage or there isn't. This reveals a binary code of yes/no which is then streamed in long lines which each instruct various parts of the computer to operate and how. Machine code is the step-up language from binary and this is often how the first computer programs are made. Linking the machine code to binary commands is a job for the pioneers in technology development. Higher level languages use the machine code to form larger and more complex functions that can be called with new commands.
Quantum will change all this. Traditional computers store binary in bits, which are either on or off. A quantum bit or Qubit can be on and off at the same time, thus holding much more information. They do this by storing information in the form of a photon of light with particular quantum qualities. The various qualities of the photon determine the state of the Qubit, and therefore what information is represents to the machine. By storing information in much smaller packages, the efficiency of the machines stands to improve greatly. But this isn't the only thing we can expect. Faster, more efficient, and completely different looking hardware are one aspect but how can this be applied in the best way, what will we actually do with it?
The most obvious area of research that quantum computers are going to be best at is particle physics. Because of the very nature of their mechanics, the devices themselves act as particle physics experiments. Once they are completely compatible and predictable, they can be used to run further particle physics experiments and then compute the data using a particle physics based system. This will keep the data in a true to form state. The physics involved in particle equations is nearly always highly detailed and complex. It's clear that anyone who can do the equations is highly intelligent in this area so the computers will be able to do what the majority of us can only dream of.
Weather prediction is something that famously takes us a lot of computing power. Successfully modelling the Earth's atmosphere in a mathematical and dynamic way is still an area of serious research. Although the weather can be predicted fairly accurately for a few days, any more time adds huge amounts of uncertainty. Quantum weather computing will be able to manufacture weather maps based on a much higher level of data which will ultimately reduce the scope for error. The limitations on weather prediction are always enforced by how much data there is. We know the formula and we know the processes but we can't say how they will happen and when without having the right information. Predicting this accurately will be easier once the machines can do more sums with more variables.
The banking sector uses computing to predict markets and artificial intelligence is already being used to choose which investments to make or break. The systems are becoming even more accurate with each new wave of technology, and much like weather prediction, predicting the financial climate can also be done with quantum computers. Of course we cannot predict unforeseen circumstances which arise in business all the time however with the markets in question, the majority of businesses run in predictable and extremely well-managed ways. Famous examples of this not happening are known. This can also be plotted into the data with contingency plans artificially formulated that ensure longevity of the investment scheme. This will hopefully lead to a much more stable and prosperous economic climate.
The reason encryption works so well is that in order to crack the code with traditional digital computing, the computer would need to spend a lot of time in doing so. A quantum computer will speed things up to such an extent that even the hardiest of encryption would be crackable. This will make a lot of how we encrypt our data obsolete. Finding new ways to make things secret and non-readable to outsiders is going to be paramount to make businesses and governments safe. Knowing this fact is part of the problem already solved, and research is ongoing to find encryption methods which cannot be broken by even quantum machines. Using the technology against itself is one area open to study, and quantum entanglement has been shown to operate distant apparatus, opening doors to new types of quantum key.
Laboratories are always looking into new molecules that can perform various functions for us. These can be in industry, farming, medicine, food, etc. Quantum computers will be able to model the functions of complex molecules to much greater clarity than a traditional system. The science of many sectors will be given a massive boost by the ability of new quantum computers to design molecules and chemical amalgams which can do even more jobs that we either can't do or want to do better.
Perhaps the most important part of the whole quantum computing project is the scope for artificial intelligence. Some people have likened our own brains to quantum computers, and so it can be imagined that when we increase the cognition resolution of a machine to a high degree, extreme intelligence can be produced. Rather than a human brain that is linked to biological systems and full of information that perhaps is not all accurate or helpful, a quantum intelligence will have just one purpose and only the right information. This intelligence will no doubt then be linked to all the other pre-mentioned areas of research to fully utilise this modern and world-changing way of doing mathematics.
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Rowan Blair Colver for Alternative Fruit
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