Our society is entirely dependent on technology. This is why we keep improving old, reliable products, and also work on creating new technologies. But what happens when we reach a limit in what we can achieve? We look for alternative solutions, of course. So it might come as no surprise that IBM receives yearly funding from IARPA for quantum supercomputer.
- A quantum computer would be able to solve in a second a problem that would take a regular computer about 10000 years
- Each quantum bit, or qubit, has to be cooled nearly to absolute zero
- The qubits can exist in multiple forms at the same time
- Tianhe-2, the world’s fastest supercomputer, occupies 8000 square feet, and would be easily outperformed by a quantum computer
IBM has been working on the theory behind quantum computers for decades, but they have only started trying to build them in the last few of years. This is because even though the theory behind them isn’t necessarily that hard to understand (if you’re a quantum physicist), it’s very hard to actually keep one working correctly.
You see, regular computers, like your PC or your smartphone, are made out of billions of tiny transistors named bits. They can be turned on and off, into positions of 1s and 0s. Every operation on a computer turns them on and off, thus performing its operations.
In quantum computers, every single one of those transistors is as big as an atom, and they occupy the position of both 1 and 0 at the same time. They are called quantum bits, or qubits for short.
Being able to represent multiple values at the same time, the qubits make quantum computers exponentially more powerful than regular computers, with one of the former being able to compute in one second problems that would take the latter about 10 millennia.
The biggest problem with the development of these potentially all-powerful machines is the fragility of the qubits. They have to be kept in an extremely cold environment, at near absolute 0, as well to be shielded from all electromagnetic interference.
Because of these issues, the most powerful quantum computer to date only contains eight qubits.
Being interested in the progress of this technology that has the potential to instantly change the course of history, IARPA, the research branch of the United States Intelligence Community gave IBM a multi-year grant in order to help with the development of the quantum computers.
For reference, if a quantum computer were to be finished, it would provide nearly instant solutions to all the problems the world is facing, as well as probably faster-than-light space travel.
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