If you're intrigued by quantum computing, you'll probably want to go ahead and purchase this week's issue of Nature. In it, you can read how the discoveries of two research teams, one from Yale and one from the National Institute of Standards and Technologies, have brought quantum computing forward by leaps -- or, at least, by bus.
In fact, if you want to compare, quantum computing is now about where conventional computing was in the 1950s, according to Yale team member, professor Robert Schoelkopf. That's when individual transistors were first being built, according to this article from Science Daily.
For those who don't want to read the whole article in Nature, here's a quick summary:
What's cool and powerful about quantum computing is the qubits. You know how conventional computers rely on zeros or ones for calculating? Well, qubits can be in both states at once. That's important because it means they can process many calculations simultaneously when they get together, as this piece from the New Scientist explains.
The problem is, it's not easy to get them together. Particularly in a way that can be duplicated in mass production. Researchers knew you could get the qubits to talk side-by-side. The problem has been to get them talking to a qubit far, far away -- say on the other side of a chip, according to the Science Daily article. If only we could somehow put them on a chip and get them to talk to each other... Hmmmm...
And that's where these two new studies come in. Both groups have managed to get the qubits connecting on a chip. In effect, the Yale team built a bus that can store and transfer information between the qubits. The information is carried by single microwave protons.
The problem then became: how do you get the information back from the proton to the qubit? If only someone could solve that problem...
Fortunately, another team from Yale managed to do just that, by guiding the photon on wires and carrying it directly to the qubit that needs the information.
The National Institute of Standards and Technologies took it to the next level and showed that the information could be stored for 10 nanoseconds before being transferred to another qubit, according to the New Scientist.
For a more detailed explanation of the NIST's discovery, check out the coverage in a second article by the Science Daily. However, for the best overview of how all these discoveries work together, you'll want to read the New Scientist article.
Admittedly, thus far what you have are a bunch of little steps, but at this point, it's all about proof of concept.
One day, however, quantum computers will help us solve problems we just can't quite do now, including fast and efficient code breaking, optimizing complex systems such as airline schedules -- now there's a Nobel Prize in the making -- and creating counterfeit-proof money.