Quantum geekdom

Alison in Wonderland, Observant, Maastricht

My brain exploded this week. Two words: quantum computing. I learnt about it in Simon Singh’s The code book: The secret history of codes and code-breaking, a goldmine of geekdom. In quantum mechanics, when we don’t know what a particle is doing, it can be doing everything possible simultaneously, and only when we observe it directly does it do just one thing. This is why Schrödinger’s cat, shut in a box with a vial of cyanide, is both dead and alive (a ‘superposition’ of states, as it’s called), and only definitively one or the other when we take a look. Now, what about quantum computers? Ask a normal computer two questions, and it first computes one and then the other, sequentially. But a quantum computer would enter a superposition of two states, one for each question. So it would need radically less time for complex operations, and thus have unimaginable power. Sure blew my mind, anyway.

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