Opinion: The unhackable computers that could revolutionize the future

News Highlights: Opinion: The unhackable computers that could revolutionize the future.

With such mind-bending predictions, it is perfectly reasonable to imagine that no useful technology could emerge from quantum physics. However, this is not true. Physicists, engineers, and computer scientists try to use the counterintuitive behavior of quantum mechanics to build quantum computers, ultimately leading to a quantum internet.

Federal agencies have begun to establish the framework for a US quantum infrastructure. The Ministry of Energy, For example, there are plans to link its laboratories to a quantum internet.

A quantum internet is both comparable and different from the regular internet. It’s similar in that it connects computers, although only quantum computers. It’s different because the way these computers communicate is essentially uncrackable.

Any attempt to intercept a message tell the intended recipient that someone read it before it was delivered. To keep up with the new initiative, the country’s universities and national laboratories have begun to develop the capabilities needed to create a successful quantum internet. One such advancement was the successful transfer of quantum information announced this month by a consortium of universities, national laboratories and private industry. This is an important step towards building a quantum internet. (Disclosure: One of the affiliated laboratories is Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the facility where I am a scientist, although I am not involved in this particular achievement.) Quantum computing is different from regular computers in many ways. First, ordinary computers are built around the concept of the bit, which is basically a switch that can be turned on or off – which makes computer professionals a 1 or 0. Unlike quantum computers use the qubit, short for “quantum bit”.

Qubits are a bit like regular bits in that they are measured as zeros and ones, but in between measurements they are an indeterminate mix of zeros and ones. This piece of quantum magic is exactly the same (and just as confusing) as Schrodinger’s cat.

In 1935, Austrian physicist Erwin Schrodinger devised a thought experiment to illustrate the absurdity of a quantum theory, the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. The Interpretation of Copenhagen, named after the city it was invented in, said a quantum system could be two opposing things at the same time until a measurement was taken. An example of a quantum system is a radioactive atom which, according to the Copenhagen interpretation, is both expired and not expired until someone measures it. Schrodinger imagined some radioactive material in a sealed box containing a radiation detector, a hammer, a poisonous gas bottle, and a cat. If an atom of the radioactive material were to decay, the detector would register it and release a hammer to break the vial of poison, which in turn would kill the cat.

Under the laws of quantum mechanics, until the box is opened, the atom is both decayed and not decayed, meaning the cat was both alive and dead. Schrodinger found this absurd, claiming that his thought experiment invalidated the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics.

Yet the idea that quantum mechanics allows an object to be in two opposite configurations at the same time is actually true. A qubit in a quantum computer is both a 0 and a 1 in one moment. That sounds impossible, but it’s one of the things that sets the quantum world apart from our familiar ones. Subatomic particles such as electrons can be in two places or once or can spin in opposite directions at the same time. They are these opposite spins that form qubits. A clockwise rotating electron is a 0 and an anti-clockwise electron is a 1 (or vice versa). The first working quantum computer was demonstrated in 1998. It was very primitive, but it was a baby step. Quantum computing has strong and weak points. For most problems, a quantum computer is not really faster than sophisticated regular computers. However, for certain problems – such as code breaking – quantum computing leaves ordinary computers in the dust. When advanced quantum computers become a reality, they will be able to break codes incomparably faster than is currently possible. What would take billions of years with regular computers would be one a few seconds with a quantum computer. For example, Google has announced an algorithm that works a hundred million times faster on quantum computers than regular computers. Moreover, quantum computers do not only excel at decoding; she also excel in encryption. Quantum algorithms have been developed that are believed to be unbreakable. It is these cryptographic opportunities that interest both countries and companies involved in e-commerce. Perfect quantum computers are, of course, not yet available, and may never be. Unlike regular computers, where it is easy to tell if a bit is on or off, the qubits in quantum computers are very sensitive to their environment, especially heat. Vibrations from the atoms of the computer can destroy the information stored in qubits, which means that quantum computers must be preserved very low temperatures.While many institutions are developing quantum computers, creating a quantum internet requires a way to transfer the information between computers. This is accomplished through a phenomenon called quantum teleportation, in which two atoms separated by great distances are made to act as if they were identical. A recent advance by the IN-Q-NET consortium, led by Caltech and with many institutional collaborators, has successfully demonstrated long-range quantum teleportation on two test benches, one in Caltech and the other in Fermilab, near Chicago. This achievement uses commercially available equipment and is an important step in the development of a quantum internet.

It is still very early in the history of quantum computing and it is unclear where exactly it is going. Its proponents are very excited about the future, while others (myself included) are looking at it cautiously. However, there is no doubt that its code creation and breaking capabilities make it an interesting prospect in the online protection and hacking landscape.

Where will quantum computing be in a decade? It’s hard to tell. But we have a long history of impressive scientific achievements that make us optimistic. In 1783, when Benjamin Franklin watched the first balloon flight, he was asked what good it was. He replied with thThe famous joke: “What good is a newborn baby?” And today we fly around the world and conquer space.

Quantum computing is still in its infancy, but it could one day change the world. We have to wait.

Via: www.cnn.com

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