We’re always taught that electrons, neutrons and protons are the smallest particles in the Universe. While some of you might know this, most of the world is unaware that for decades, scientists have known of the existence of various ‘sub-atomic’ particles, one of which is quarks. The obvious reason for this is that nobody had any reason to care. Right?
The arrival of the quantum computer, a computer which can operate at speeds up to 100,000,000 times that of a ‘classical computer’!
While this might sound like a fantasy, Google and NASA have collaborated to get their hands on just that – a quantum computer that goes by the name of D-Wave. The computer is nearly as large as a room and is obscenely expensive. However, it is the start of a range of quantum computers that could essentially change the world.
Interested? Well, the basic principle of quantum technology lies in something that is quite different from that of the computers that we use. As we all know, the smallest units of classical computers are bits – which can have two possible values, 0 or 1. The smallest unit of a quantum computer, however, is a qubit. A qubit, in simple terms, uses the various properties of a quark such as spin, eccentricity and superimposition to compute several variables simultaneously. Or, in even simpler terms, a qubit is not limited to only two values – it can hold hundreds of thousands of values, increasing processing speed by tremendous amounts.
All of this, and more, has resulted in the fact that Google/NASA’s D-Wave successfully performed a ‘task’ in a hundredth of a second, while a classical supercomputer took 100 days to complete the same task.
According to experts, D-Wave is not even a fully-fledged quantum computer – this clearly shows that a ‘proper’ quantum computer would have unimaginable speeds. All of this merely encourages R&D in this fascinating field. After all, a time may not be far enough when we might be able to make calculations using a possible future Unified Field Theory or even the exact velocity of a shuttle re-entering the atmosphere using our very own “personal” quantum computers!
~Yatharth Agarwal, class 10, Amity International School, Noida
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