What Are Quantum Computers Really Good For?

Via Forbes / Chad Orzel

Photo Credit: D-Wave

There’s always a lot of hype going on in regards to quantum computers, but not many people really understand what all the fuss is about. So, what are quantum computers really good for?  Well, for one, they allow much more complex data to be fed into it as a quantum state can be both particle and wave at the same time.

Quantum mechanics allows us to encode more data onto a much smaller computer and has been around since the 1920’s. It’s based on numbers called amplitudes, that can be negative, positive, or complex. The idea behind quantum computing is that the wrong answer is never observed due to the fact that some paths leading to a wrong answer have positive amplitudes and others have negative, therefore they cancel one another out.

In a nutshell, quantum computing is a process of engineering the patterns of waves in an attempt to channel the flow toward the right answer. However, the fact that we don’t know the answer yet, vastly complicates matters, so it’s not just a case of laying down one channel but trying to stir up a set of waves that will somehow magically come together.  Quantum mechanics can help dramatically when a small subset of problems need to be solved.  It also allows the calculation of far more complicated equations in a much shorter time than a classical computer.

Quantum mechanics isn’t an ideal solution for everything, but it’s a really neat branch of physics nonetheless. And just remember, that underneath all that scientific terminology it really just comes down to one thing: choreographing waves, meaning that it will dramatically improve the outcome for a small number of problems.

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