Saturday, February 15, 2014


"Infinity Machine" sounds like over-hype
...but what if it's not?
Time Magazine's cover story is about, potentially, one of the most important inventions of the 21st century. The quantum computer is
so radical and strange, people are still trying to figure out what it's for and how to use it. It could represent an enormous new source of computing power--it has the potential to solve problems that would take conventional computers centuries, with revolutionary consequences for fields ranging from cryptography to nanotechnology, pharmaceuticals to artificial intelligence.
The technology sounds like gibberish to the layperson, including your humble correspondent. If you, dear reader, are conversant with the italicized terms, you are a smarter person than I:
An adiabatic quantum computer works by means of a process called quantum annealing. Its heart is a network of qubits linked together by couplings. You "program" the couplings with an algorithm that specifies certain interactions between the qubits--if this one is a 1, then that one has to be a 0, and so on. You put the qubits into a state of quantum superposition, in which they're free to explore all those 2-to-the-whatever computational possibilities simultaneously, then you allow them to settle back into a classical state and become regular 1's and 0's again. The qubits naturally seek out the lowest possible energy state consistent with the requirements you specified in your algorithm back at the very beginning. If you set it up properly, you can read your answer in the qubits' final configuration.
Other physics concepts that would-be quan-trepreneurs need to be familiar with are quantum entanglement and quantum tunneling.

Not one in ten thousand people can explain any of them; nevertheless, somewhere in their back offices the wizards of Wall Street have already started drafting the IPO documents.

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