Quantum Leap Could Redefine

No, I’m not talking about that Quantum Leap. IBM just made a really interesting announcement in that it is enhancing its online quantum computer systems with a new API and improving its simulator so it can handle 20 qubits.

While listening to the prebriefing was a bit like pretending I was Penny trying to understand Sheldon Cooper on Big Bang Theory, I think this move does showcase yet another huge approaching computing wave that could eclipse the one we currently are trying desperately, but largely failing, to ride.

I’ll share some thoughts on quantum computing and close with my product of the week: the Arlo Security Camera system from Netgear, which has to be the best comprehensive home security system in the market.

It is easy to get lost in the terminology surrounding quantum computing and glaze over. Basically, quantum computing is a revolutionary, not evolutionary, system that is pretty much indistinguishable from magic.

Let me give you an example. With a regular computing system at a machine language level you have 1s and 0s — an element is one or the other. With quantum computing, an element is both at the same time. This is like someone asking if your new car is black or white, and you can answer “yes” and be completely accurate.

In the world we think we live in, two opposites aren’t the same thing. In the quantum world, they sort of are. The most sick — or fun — explanation for this is Schrodinger’s cat (here’s a TED video about it), which is about how a cat who died in a closed box exists as both living and dead until the box is opened. Schrodinger supposedly was so disturbed about his analysis that he decided to abandon quantum physics and take up biology. I’m guessing talking smack about cats forced a career change.

When we currently talk about parallel computing, we talk about taking a single program, breaking it up into parts, and then executing it to get around the limitations of Moore’s law and avoiding the need to have a processor in our computer running hotter than the core of the sun. That gives you speed without heat.

With quantum computing, things happen pretty much at the same time. Because elements can be both things at once, things basically can happen instantly — not sequentially –so the potential speed of solving a problem approaches instant.

The example of a practical application I was given years ago was decrypting the most secure data file. Traditional computing might take years, but true quantum computing only seconds (which would be required to interpret the results, not get them in the first place). Effectively, it should blow away any concept we have of speed.

The damn things even look weird, more like a cross between a traditional computer and something from the steampunk dimension.

It’s not just that it would be hard to understand a quantum computer — think what a nightmare it would be to program one or interface with the result.