A traditional computer manipulates bits, which are signals that represent discrete values that are either zero or one. On the other hand, a quantum computer uses quantum bits.
A quantum bit is a type of signal that represents both zero and one into two distinct quantum states, enabling a quantum bit to even be both zero and one simultaneously. By using quantum bits instead of bits, quantum computers can solve problems that traditional computers struggle with.
There are two main aspects of quantum computing: superposition and entanglement. These two concepts are unique because they are phenomena that are not noticed by humans. These two concepts exist within quantum mechanics; therefore, they are observed on an atomic scale.
Superposition refers to the idea that a quantum system is capable of being in multiple states at the same time. An example of this concept is when flipping a coin, the result is both heads and tails. This concept is fascinating as it is not applicable to classical laws of physics. The principle of quantum superposition states that a quantum particle can exist in multiple locations at the same time. Using this principle, it can be concluded that a quantum bit can have distinct states at the same time. Though this concept is baffling when viewing it from a regular scale, this phenomena is present on an atomic scale, such as during chemical reactions.
On the other hand, the concept of entanglement refers to the idea that multiple quantum particles can behave in perfect unison simultaneously. Einstein humorously referred to entanglement as “spooky action at a distance”; this is accurate as the concept declares that quantum particles that are at opposite ends of the universe can still behave the exact same in terms of states, at the same time.
Besides being fascinating and extremely complicated concepts, superposition and entanglement are useful to their importance in the future of computing. As a result of manipulating superposition and entanglement, quantum computers can process calculations faster as well as simultaneously.
One of the advantages that quantum computers have over traditional computers is that while traditional computers only works with bits that are either zero or one, a quantum computer has the benefit of using zero, one or a superposition of zero and one.
In fact, some tasks that quantum computers complete are virtually impossible to execute on a traditional computers. For example, a quantum computer can easily and efficiently factor very large numbers while a traditional computer still struggles with this task. Though this task seems useless in for most individuals, this task is necessary for many in our day-to-day lives. Factoring is required for encryption, which is used for every credit card transaction. Though factoring may seem uneventful, this task is required by millions of people around the globe everyday. This is merely one example of quantum computing can be extended to everyday use. Quantum computing is also useful for large-scale projects, such as traffic regulation and optimization, business models and battery optimization. Quantum computers can even help process computations regarding weather forecast and even climate change. Given the global implications of quantum computing, it can be concluded that quantum computers can help us solve problems that otherwise cannot be found using traditional computers.
Although quantum computing and its tremendous potential benefits are currently discussed much throughout the field of computer science, the computers are only in the beginning stage of usage. there is much more work needed before they are commonly sold and used by the general public. The computers vary much in appearance compared to traditional computers; in fact, one of the IBM models of a quantum computer looks similar to chandelier.
Though quantum bits can be more useful to manipulate when compared to regular bits due to the benefits of superposition and entanglement, there are drawbacks regarding the usage of quantum bits in computers. For example, quantum bits are more difficult to manipulate when compared to bits in traditional computers. This is because any disturbance causes quantum bits to fall out of their state, which is known as decoherence. Though researchers are attempting to find ways to prevent decoherence of quantum bits, the issue continues to affect the usage of quantum computing. Although it is currently tricky to control the behavior of quantum bits, decoherence will not be a permanent roadblock when it comes to solving problems using quantum computing.
Furthermore, there is much speculation regarding the cybersecurity threats of quantum computing. As previously mentioned, quantum computers can be useful in factoring large numbers and therefore, useful for encryption. This has raised concerns among researchers regarding quantum computers being capable of figuring out encryption keys. Although quantum computers currently do not have the processing power to break encryption keys, there is speculation that it is probable in the future.
Since quantum computers rely on quantum physics rather than “traditional” physics, cybersecurity researchers are concerned as the computers could be capable of breaking contemporary encryption technology. Therefore, quantum computing could possibly undo all of the work generated as a result of encryption technology.
A consequence of quantum computing could be data breaches, which could millions of people around the world could be vulnerable to their private data being breached. Even banks could be overtaken with quantum computing, as banks rely on encryption to protect the data of all clients. However, according to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, quantum computers will need much more technical advances before possibly being able to break any large-scale software. Currently the threat is deemed as merely hypothetical; however, if it is not, the consequences would be global and catastrophic.
Therefore, quantum computers can solve problems that traditional computers are unable to. This is because of quantum bits, a type of signal that represents both zero and one into two distinct quantum states, enabling a quantum bit to be both zero and one simultaneously.
Furthermore, quantum computing has two qualities that differentiate it from traditional computing: superposition and entanglement. These two phenomena are unique as they fall under the category of quantum physics, meaning they cannot be applied in traditional laws of physics.
Though there is much controversy regarding the usage of quantum computing, the future can only show the consequences of the technology, whether it is used for good or bad.