Quantum Computing: Beyond Binary

I used to love reading Michael Crichton. He’s the guy that wrote Jurassic Park, Sphere, Prey and other thriller, sci-fi books.

What made him good was his research. He dove so deep into what he was writing about that he learned it form inside out, and he loved writing about science. Using his intensive research, his mind would map out interesting convergences of possible technologies.

One of his books, Timeline (1999), dealt with time travel made possible by quantum computing. Sixteen years later quantum computing is still in its infancy, and much of its potential is theoretical.

An overview of quantum computing suggests the ability to perform calculations beyond the simple binary, into much more complex dimensions.

So instead of one computer, my laptop for example, doing one calculation to factor a large number, processor grinding away, hard drive light flashing on overdrive.

A quantum computer could process my laptops calculation along with an infinite number of the same calculations, simultaneously, span across all possible computational routes and arrive at the answer.

Let’s say my laptop had to solve a maze, but a really tricky one, that would take days. It would plot out a route, memorizing where it’s been, finding a dead ends, turning around, and reorienting itself.

A quantum computer could solve that maze faster, by processing every possible attempt down every possible alley, all at the same time. Not one maze, but an infinite number of mazes all being solved in parallel, by one computer. This is the theory.

Advances in parallel computing have made classical computers capable of this feast, but to a marginal degree. What kind of margin?

When it comes to factoring an equation with 512 variables it would take a classical computer 10123 times the age of the universe to complete. A quantum computer could do it somewhere in your lifetime.

So far we have a quantumish working model, the D-Wave, in British Colombia, Canada. They’re website boasts: “Welcome to the future. The quantum computing era has begun.”

In 2013, NASA, Google and some universities showed interest in D-Wave 2 and its potential to help develop Artificial Intelligence.

D-Wave Systems CEO, Vern Brownell, spoke in 2014 of future uses for D-Wave 2 and beyond. He suggested the company hopes to share its computational resources via cloud.

Cloud computing allows companies with vast computation power to loan that power to end users, without the need to purchase the hardware for themselves. It is the driving force behind how we use the internet today.

Functioning quantum computers are regarded with skepticism in the quantum field as not being a ‘true’ quantum computer, but efforts to improve both benchmarks and functionality of these devices.

Traditional quantum computing is still years away, but if any computer is going to be making the calculations needed to jump people through time, it will be a quantum computer.

Maybe Michael Crichton knew what he was talking about after all.

Works Cited:

"How Does a Quantum Computer Work?" YouTube. Veritasium, 17 June 2013. Web.

Zyga, Lisa. "New Largest Number Factored on a Quantum Device Is 56,153." Phys.Org. 28 Nov. 2014. Web.

Thompson, Clive. "The Revolutionary Quantum Computer That May Not Be Quantum at All." Wired.com. Wired Magazine, 20 May 2014. Web.

Courtland, Rachel. "D-Wave Aims to Bring Quantum Computing to the Cloud." IEEE Spectrum.org. IEEE Spectrum, 9 Apr. 2014. Web.