The US government wants IBM to build some quantum computers solely for its sake.
The impossible has become virtually possible. As the physical limits are transgressed day in and day out as regards the size of microchips, IBM is entering the territory of quantum computing.
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While shrinkage in size does lead to issues with power output, this is not the case with quantum computers. Their atomic logic gates possess some weird properties. These computers could be the wave of the future since they have exponentially much greater power than many of today’s supercomputers.
Quantum computers could be employed in the business of creating new pharmaceuticals, cracking indecipherable codes or even creating new forms of artificial intelligence. IBM has been at the job of searching for the means of producing quantum computers for a generation or so.
Each day is bringing it closer to its cherished goals. Now, the intelligence agencies of the US government have started taking an inordinate interest in IBM’s quantum computing project.
On November 8th, IBM representatives announced that IARPA had given their company a grant for a few years so that it could continue to explore the frontiers of quantum computing.
Classical computers have had their heyday. They included the large hulks that took up entire office floors and the smart phone inside your hip pocket. They contain billions of small transistors that function in a programmed manner.
The transistors are actually like switches that can be flipped on or off like a 1 or a 0. Any tweet, data, document or pic is composed of these ones and zeroes. They are called bits. However, in quantum computers, the transistor consists of a single atom.
It comprises a superposition of 1 and 0 in unison. These are called qubits and they allow the quantum computer to work at a far higher power level than classical computers.
The only problem is that these qubits are very unstable. They have to be quarantined in large machines that take the temperature levels down to absolute zero. While IBM has managed to build a few such machines, the most powerful of them only has a capacity of 8 qubits.
Due to the fragile nature of the qubits, errors turn up at every corner and so corrections have to be made. The issue is gathering enough qubits in a small enough space to allow the miracle of quantum computing to flourish.
This will require hard work. Quantum computers have many applications, encryption and security being the two most obvious ones. IBM has not given a timeline according to which the next big quantum computer will appear. It could well take many years before one arrives on the scene.
"We are at a turning point where quantum computing is moving beyond theory and experimentation to include engineering and applications," said Arvind Krishna, senior vice president and director, IBM Research.
"Quantum computing promises to deliver exponentially more speed and power not achievable by today's most powerful computers with the potential to impact business needs on a global scale. Investments and collaboration by government, industry and academia such as this IARPA program are necessary to help overcome some of the challenges towards building a universal quantum computer."