Quantum computers, quantum cryptography and quantum (insert name here) are often in the news these days. Articles about them inevitably refer to entanglement, a property of quantum physics that makes all these magical devices possible.
Computers were once considered high-end technology, only accessible to scientists and trained professionals. But there was a seismic shift in the history of computing during the second half of the 1970s. It wasn’t just that machines became much smaller and more powerful — though, of course, they did. It was the shift in who would use computers and where: They became available to everyone to use in their own home.
Quantum simulation gives a sneak peek into the possibilities of time reversal. An international team of scientists led by Argonne explored the concept of reversing time in a first-of-its-kind experiment, managing to return a computer briefly to the past. The results present new possibilities for quantum computer program testing and error correction.
IBM recently unveiled what it claimed was the world’s first commercial quantum computer. While the announcement of the Q System One wasn’t scientifically groundbreaking, the fact that IBM sees this as a commercial product that organisations (if not individuals) will want to use is an important breakthrough.
The science and tech world has been abuzz about quantum computers for years, but the devices are not yet affecting our daily lives. Quantum systems could seamlessly encrypt data, help us make sense of the huge amount of data we’ve already collected, and solve complex problems that even the most powerful supercomputers cannot – such as medical diagnostics and weather prediction.
In early July, Google announced that it will expand its commercially available cloud computing services to include quantum computing. A similar service has been available from IBM since May. These aren’t services most regular people will have a lot of reason to use yet. But making quantum computers more accessible will help government, academic and corporate research groups around the world continue their study of the capabilities of quantum computing.
Quantum computers, which are based on the strange rules of quantum mechanics, will revolutionise society in a similar way to how mechanical computers have. Once built, they will help us answer many questions in science, create lifesaving medicines, provide transformative capabilities for the financial sector and in general solve certain problems that an ordinary computer would take billions of years to compute.