The Rise and Impact of Quantum Computing


From the 1960s, computers have been exponentially increasing their power while becoming smaller and more portable. However, we are now close to our limit. In the 1900s, transistors (switches that stop allowing the passage of electrons) were approximately 6 inches tall but today, they size at a mere 14 nanometers. Put into perspective, this is 500 times smaller than a red blood cell and there is only so far, we can go in terms of size: as transistors reach the size of atoms, they may no longer be able to stop electrons from using quantum tunneling to bypass the gate.

Quantum computers are the solution and can use an electrons quantum property to make the next generation of computers smaller and even more powerful. Currently, computers use bits as the smallest value of data which can be either a 0 or 1. Quantum computers also use Qubits which also use 0’s and 1’s as the smallest state. However, in the quantum world, a Qubit isn’t restrained to picking one or the other but can be both a 0 and a 1 simultaneously which is known as superposition. However, superposition only lasts until the qubit is observed which is when it collapses into a single state (0 or 1). This allows just 20 qubits to hold over 1 million configurations at a single time. Apart from this, Qubits also hold many other unique and game-changing properties including entanglement which pairs qubits together and allows one to change instantaneously based on the other properties. This would drastically improve speeds and remove any visible lag computers face today as even entangled qubits separated into two different sides of the universe would still respond instantaneously to the other.

Quantum computing creates both issues and solutions in the field of encryption. Today, data is encrypted using a public key so that only the receiver can read the data by unlocking it with its private key. However, with improvements in algorithms, a public key can be used to find the correlated private keys since they are based on simple but powerful mathematical properties including prime numbers and factorization. Luckily, this would take normal computers thousands of years, but a quantum computer could do this in mere minutes. However, Quantum computers would solve their own issue by using a qubits uncertainty to create private keys. This would prevent hackers from copying the keys perfectly due to the fundamental nature of uncertainty. Furthermore, today’s computers lack the precision and speed needed to make models of the quantum world. Quantum computers would allow us to build these precise and intensive models giving us insight into new proteins and structures that could revolutionize the medical world. Even though quantum computers are nowhere near to replacing our personal computers, they are especially applicable in database settings since they search in the square root of the time it takes for a normal computer to search for something. This is especially game-changing for large databases with little to no organization.

Currently, we are still at the surface of quantum physics and don’t realize the power it harnesses. Quantum computers can even help with that allowing us to learn more about the quantum field and in turn creating faster and smarter quantum computers. Even without harnessing the power of quantum computers, we have developed applications for this technology. With these in hand, the future is simply exciting and uncertain.