Written by Abhirup Moitra – WhiteHat Jr Marketing Team
As a student of Physics, both Newtonian and Quantum physics has fascinated me. Be it Newton’s Classical theory of light or Planck’s Quantum Theory, it is not unnatural for light to show dual nature. The same is true for computing as well. Here’s diving deeper to know more about the buzzword “Quantum Computing”.
Google’s claim of ‘Quantum Supremacy’
The term in itself sounds like something from a futuristic Sci-fi movie where the world is taken over by entities whose building blocks are electrons. However, it’s not that. Coined in 2012 by John Preskill, Quantum Supremacy refers to the point that Quantum Computers can do things that are beyond the scope of classic computers. Recently, Google’s Quantum Computer ‘Sycamore’ solved a difficult calculation in 200 seconds that would take its rival IBM’s quantum computer ‘Summit’ ‘10,000 years’ to solve, Google claimed.
In response to Google’s ‘10,000-year remark, IBM responded, that the ‘Summit’ can do the same in 2 days and not 10,000 days! Well, there is a lot of such hullaballoo around the buzzword. But what exactly is it? What is a Quantum Computer? Is it the same as a supercomputer?
What is a Quantum Computer and How different is it from a Conventional Computer?
To understand the difference between a Quantum Computer and a Classic Computer you have to understand the fundamental principle on which a computer works. Computers (analogous to a microchip) process information in 0s and 1s (Boolean Logic or as we call it Binary). Conventional Computer uses bits in the form of transistors that take the value as either 0 or 1. Quantum Computer does not use bits as its building blocks. It uses Quantum Bits (qubits) which can either take a value of 0 or 1 or both simultaneously in a state of superposition. It does not depend on transistors as logical operators.
To put simply, imagine a sphere where the bits can occupy either of the poles, whereas a qubit can occupy the poles as well as anything in between. This means a Qubit can store more information than a bit and uses less energy. Quantum Computer, therefore, is the current new generation of supercomputers. Now that you know the basic difference between a Conventional Computer and a Quantum Computer, the next aspect to understand is how it changes the face of modern computing?
How does Quantum Computing change the scenario of computing?
- Machine Learning and Big Data Analysis
According to an article by Forbes, it is estimated that, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data generated each day. Now, it is obvious that data crunching using the existing Machine Learning (ML) algorithms is a hefty business using Conventional Computers. Quantum Computers being still in a nascent phase are used in a limited manner to speed up the calculations required for machine learning.
Peter Wittek, a research fellow at the Institute of Photonic Sciences in Castelldefels, Spain, says that standard machine learning algorithms generating purely random numbers is not an easy deal. Monte Carlo algorithm for ML, used widely in financial applications require purely random numbers for best results. Quantum Computers, by far is the best way to generate numbers that define pure randomness.
You can read the IEEE Spectrum blog here.
2. Open new avenues in the research of Cryptography and Cybersecurity
All modern encryptions are based on the RSA algorithm (named after Rivest–Shamir–Adleman). For starters, bank, Gmail and Facebook account passwords use RSA encryption. For every qubit (n), there can be 2^n possible states. This makes Quantum Computers crack complex codes quite easily. With this, researchers have started looking for ways to mitigate the risk that might arise in the years to come. With every threat there is a new path for the opportunity and the same can be said for cybersecurity researchers. If you are a cybersecurity researcher, this report by NIST might interest you.
3. Breakthrough in Optimizing solutions
Imagine you have to travel from point A to point B and then to point C; for this, are 4 different routes. Also assume, the best route is a factor of 12 variables. Now imagine the same for all the world’s population who is using a tool to find the best route. Sounds like a real-life problem? Quantum Computing can be a breakthrough to solve complex problems of this magnitude.
The final word: Even though we are in a nascent phase of development of Quantum Computing, Google’s breakthrough in this field looks promising.