How a supercomputer could help make life better
An ultra-deep quantum computer may be able to solve some of the toughest problems in science and engineering.
The team at the University of Edinburgh is developing a quantum computer with quantum bits that could help solve some fundamental problems in chemistry and medicine, including drug discovery, and could be used in other areas of research.
Quantum computers, as the name suggests, are very powerful computers with quantum states of energy that are completely distinct from ordinary computers.
They are based on the principle that when two particles interact with each other, they can interact in a superposition of states of two particles, which is why it’s so difficult to determine which one is actually the source of the other.
This is how we learn new things about the world and the universe, but it’s also how we find out what makes us tick, says University of Oxford quantum physicist Dr Paul McAllister.
“If we can build something that has these properties and we can learn more about it, we can understand it, and the more we learn, the more accurate we can be about it,” he says.
“But it’s very difficult to do, and we’ve got to get used to it.”
So what is a quantum bit?
Quantum bits are essentially tiny, ultra-fast, entangled bits.
This means they can communicate with each of the two particles in the system.
“One is a little bit like a bit of DNA in that it’s made up of atoms, and when you write a letter it’s like a little piece of DNA, and it’s really a little tiny,” says McAllisters.
“When you send a message it’s just like the DNA, but the bits in it are really fast.”
This is what makes it so different from the other kinds of information you get from traditional computers, which are much more like a single molecule of DNA that can be copied and read by the computer.
“For example, you might write a long letter to a friend and then send it over the Internet.
The message you send back will be identical to the letter you wrote, so it will be stored on your computer.
But with a quantum machine, you can store the bits that you’ve sent back in a single quantum state, which means they’re in a very specific way.”
So the only way you can get it back is to try and break it down into its constituent parts.””
It’s really different, and there’s no way to recover it.
So the only way you can get it back is to try and break it down into its constituent parts.”
These quantum bits are like bits in a traditional computer.
But if you’re writing a message, you could send it in a more conventional way.
You would write down a letter and write it to a person, and if they receive it, they would be able, if they have the right quantum bit, to read it.
“So the idea is that the messages could be read from one quantum bit to another quantum bit,” says Professor McAlli’s Professor Andrew Dutton.
“What you can do is write a short letter to your friend and send it back.
If they have a bit that is associated with a letter, they could then look up the letter in the computer’s database and figure out what letter it is, and what bit it is.”
The idea is to send that information back to a quantum state that is correlated with the letter.
The computer then searches that database for the right bits and then stores them in a special quantum state known as the entangled state.
The quantum bits then interact with the quantum state to form a new letter, and once they have this letter, the computer can store it in the quantum machine.
“They can look up a letter in your computer, if you have the correct bit, and then they can write a new bit from the original to that letter and they can then use that to get back the message,” says Dutton, who is also an expert in quantum computing.
This is the key to quantum computing, and researchers are working on quantum computers to explore the world around us.
“The thing that makes them different is that they can be used to build really complex things,” says University College London physicist Dr Michael Deutsch.
“You could build a super computer that can solve problems in physics and biology, like the physics of a molecule or the biology of a virus, or even the physics that describes the behavior of atoms.”
And we have all sorts of quantum devices that can do these kinds of things.
And there are a number of other things that could be built from these kinds.
“What could a quantum quantum computer be used for?
Dr Deutsch says a quantum version of the computer is already in use in medicine and could soon be used by scientists in a number more areas.”
We have this idea that we might one day build a quantum supercomputer that would run a whole range of different systems and be able solve some very challenging problems