Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Quantum Information Science?

Have you heard of quantum information science? Eventually, it might solve the problems of information-mess and access. Although quantum physics, information theory, and computer science were among the apex of intellectual achievements of the 20th century, they were often framed as separate entities. Currently, a new synthesis of these themes is quietly emergine. The emerging field of quantum information science is offering important insights into fundamental issues at the interface of computation and physical science, and may guide the way to revolutionary technological advances.

Director of the Institute for Quantum Information, John Preskill proposes in his lecture, that quantum bits (“qubits”), the indivisible units of quantum information, will be central for “quantum cryptography,” wherein the privacy of secret information can be founded on principles of fundamental physics. The quantum laws that govern atoms and other tiny objects differ radically from the classical laws that govern our ordinary experience. Physicists are beginning to recognize that we can put the weirdness to work. That is, there are tasks involving the acquisition, transmission, and processing of information that are achievable in principle because Nature is quantum mechanical, but that would be impossible in a "less weird" classical world.

What does this mean ultimately mean? A “quantum computer” operating on just a few hundred qubits could perform tasks that ordinary digital computers could not possibly emulate. Although constructing practical quantum computers will be tremendously challenging, particularly because quantum computers are far more susceptible to making errors than conventional digital computers, newly developed principles of fault-tolerant quantum computation may enable a properly designed quantum computer with imperfect components to achieve reliability.
How long will it take before we achieve quantum computing? Please be patient. These folks are working on it.

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