Quantum Computing and The Internet of the Future

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Quantum physics describes a strange world that exists at the level of the very small; we’re talking atoms and sub-atomic particles such as photons. As the basic components of computers keep shrinking – a transistor can now be only 5 nanometers wide – it seems inevitable that we will end up computing in the quantum realm. What will that mean for ordinary users and for the companies that serve their computing needs?

Two aspects of quantum mechanics are especially relevant to computing and the Internet. The first is the principle of “superposition,” which states that a quantum-scale object can simultaneously be in multiple states such as up, down, or infinite combinations of those two states. Many readers are familiar with “Schrödinger's Cat”, a thought experiment that illustrates superposition. In this experiment, a cat sealed in a box is both alive and dead (and all the infinite combinations of those states) until an observer opens the box to see what state the cat is in.

Writing that that reminded me of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. German physicist Werner Heisenberg stated back in 1927 that the position and the velocity of an object cannot both be measured exactly, at the same time. What does all of this have to do with quantum Internet? I'm not sure, but here's a great video of the physics of falling cats, that brings both of those theories into play.

The Quantum Internet and Falling Cats

I seem to have digressed, so let's get back to the topic at hand. Superposition allows a “qubit” - a quantum bit of information – to have exponentially more values than either 1 or 0 as classical bits have. This property, in turn, allows exponentially more powerful and faster quantum computers that can perform many complex computations in parallel.

Quantum computers will be able to solve problems that are simply beyond the capabilities of the best computers based upon classical binary physics. One such problem is how to crack strong encryption in a reasonable amount of time. Today, we have classical encryption so strong that it would take the NSA hundreds of years to break it; but with quantum computers the job could be done in weeks, days or hours. That’s rather ominous for privacy, but another principle of quantum physics may provide a hack-proof alternative to classical encryption.

The second principle is “entanglement,” which Einstein derided as “spooky action at a distance,” but which modern physicists have found actually exists. When a pair of quantum objects are entangled, changes in the state of one object are mirrored in the other instantaneously, no matter how much distance separates them. This 1997 article from the New York Times describes an experiment conducted in Geneva, Switzerland which demonstrated the entanglement principle.

Two aspects of quantum mechanics are especially relevant to computing and the Internet. The first is the principle of “superposition,” which states that a quantum-scale object can simultaneously be in multiple states such as up, down, or infinite combinations of those two states. Many readers are familiar with “Schrödinger's Cat”, a thought experiment that illustrates superposition. In this experiment, a cat sealed in a box is both alive and dead (and all the infinite combinations of those states) until an observer opens the box to see what state the cat is in.

Writing that that reminded me of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. German physicist Werner Heisenberg stated back in 1927 that the position and the velocity of an object cannot both be measured exactly, at the same time. What does all of this have to do with quantum Internet? I'm not sure, but here's a great video of the physics of falling cats, that brings both of those theories into play.

The Quantum Internet and Falling Cats

I seem to have digressed, so let's get back to the topic at hand. Superposition allows a “qubit” - a quantum bit of information – to have exponentially more values than either 1 or 0 as classical bits have. This property, in turn, allows exponentially more powerful and faster quantum computers that can perform many complex computations in parallel.

Quantum computers will be able to solve problems that are simply beyond the capabilities of the best computers based upon classical binary physics. One such problem is how to crack strong encryption in a reasonable amount of time. Today, we have classical encryption so strong that it would take the NSA hundreds of years to break it; but with quantum computers the job could be done in weeks, days or hours. That’s rather ominous for privacy, but another principle of quantum physics may provide a hack-proof alternative to classical encryption.

The second principle is “entanglement,” which Einstein derided as “spooky action at a distance,” but which modern physicists have found actually exists. When a pair of quantum objects are entangled, changes in the state of one object are mirrored in the other instantaneously, no matter how much distance separates them. This 1997 article from the New York Times describes an experiment conducted in Geneva, Switzerland which demonstrated the entanglement principle.

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