Quantum Science and Research in the Last Decade Has Set the Stage to Change the Direction of History
How The 2010s Changed Physics Forever
Excerpts and salient points ~
+ These quantum devices were famously proposed by Richard Feynman in 1981. They’re intended to solve certain problems that regular computers can’t using the weird, subverted probability mathematics of atoms, rather than regular logic. Specifically, scientists hope they may one day simulate the behaviour of molecules or run certain complex algorithms using the new mathematical tweaks. Basically, it’s as if these machines just generate probability distributions from flipping coins that can be nudged in midair by pulses of energy, and unlike the regular rules of probability, these quantum probabilities can have negative signs when you add the “coins” together, leading to more complex probability distributions than regular flipped coins would have.
This decade also kicked off a new era in technology based on the quirks of particle physics—like quantum computers. “I think this decade is definitely the one where quantum computer turned from science fiction into something that looks like it’s going to become real,” Peter Shor, MIT mathematician behind Shor’s factoring algorithm, told Gizmodo.
+ It was only 2007 when physicists at Yale invented the “transmon qubit,” a loop of superconducting wire that acts as an artificial atom and the smallest unit of quantum computing. Today, IBM and Google have both developed 50-plus qubit machines that are starting to show speedups over the abilities of classical computers for certain problems. Meanwhile, other companies have debuted similar-sized devices based on atoms held in place by lasers. A whole ecosystem of startups offering software tools or hardware components for these machines has grown as well.
+ It may be decades before these machines offer any advantages over classical computers aside from being fancy random number generators. They’re incredibly difficult to control before losing their qunatumness from stray vibrations or radiation of the outside world. They might still deliver the wrong results—a zero in a binary string when it should have spat out a one, for example. Researchers are now working to implement error correction, combining multiple qubits together to create a mega, “logical” qubit that’s not prone to error. A truly “fault-tolerant” universal quantum computer that physicists dream of might require millions of qubits to realise its full potential.
+ This decade, scientists have also incorporated the weirdness of quantum mechanics into new sensing technology, and scientists in China launched a satellite that used the mathematics of quantum mechanics to encrypt a video call between China and Austria. Moving beyond quantum into materials science, researchers may have created the first material that conducts electricity without resistance at nearly room temperature—another discovery decades in the making. And just last year, scientists discovered that they could switch superconductivity on and off in two sheets of graphene with just a twist, a discovery that has generated a deluge of followup work in two-dimensional systems ever since.
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