A little-known advancement is taking place in the world of computing that has the potential of greatly expanding the processing power of computers.
In classical computing (which is what we use now), information is computed using a binary system.
The binary system uses two numbers or states to manage its data.
Imagine a flow of electricity.
If the current is off, it can be represented by “0”. If the flow or current is on, it can be represented by “1”.
Computers use (on and off states) patterns of 0s and 1s to help process data and to perform tasks. The basic unit in the binary system is called a bit.
(Eight bits are called a byte, while 1,000 bytes are called a kilobyte, one million bytes are called a megabyte, and so on.)
Enter Quantum Computing
In quantum computing, things are quite different.
Quantum computing uses the behavior of subatomic particles (i.e., electrons) to help process information.
A particle can be at a base state (or ground state) of lower energy. This ground state can correspond to “0”, just as in the binary system.
Under slightly different conditions, the particle can be at a higher state of energy. This can be represented as “1”.
The basic quantum unit is called a qubit.
Quantum computers manipulate quantum states to produce outcomes within computers.
Not only can a particle be in a state of 0 or 1, but it can be in both states at the same time!
This is called superposition.
In addition to superposition, particles can become entangled. Entanglement essentially means that two particles can be correlated in such a way that when you observe one of the particles in the pair, you can estimate (with great accuracy) what is happening with the other particle, without having to directly observing it.
Quantum computers can exist in states of entanglement. All of this means that quantum computers can perform tasks, in seconds, that would take years for traditional computers to complete.
Right now companies like Google, Microsoft, IBM and Intel are all working on making quantum computers, chips or programming languages.
Many other companies and countries are working in this area, as well.
It is believed that this technology will be available in the not-so-distant future of maybe 10 - 20 years from now. If a child is four years old now, he or she will be less than 24 when these technologies are more readily available.
Please share this with a child, you never know what will catch on with them!
In fact, IBM has placed a 5 qubit computer online, along with a library that tells you about the quantum experience.
Just in case you think this is just taking off in America, three high schools in South Africa have already conducted a workshop in quantum computing using IBM's computer and over 45,000 people, worldwide, have used logged in and used the computer.
It is important to expose our children to these concepts because they often wonder, "Where will I ever use the stuff I learn in math and science?" In reality they will use it everyday, they just won't know it.
IBM loaded this video on their YouTube channel, to explain quantum computing.
© 2017 Danita Smith, Red and Black Ink, LLC.
Dr. Talia Gershon, “A Beginner’s Guide to Quantum Computing”. Published on May 31, 2017. YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S52rxZG-zi0
IBM Q experience library. https://quantumexperience.ng.bluemix.net/qx/user-guide
Linn, Allison. “With new Microsoft breakthroughs, general purpose quantum computing moves closer to reality”. Microsoft/Features. September 25, 2017.