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What is Quantum Computing?

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  • Written By: Ken Black
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2016
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Quantum computing is a new method of computing with a hypothetical computer, capable of processing speeds impossible by traditional computers. Though the earliest quantum computers have been built, when practical quantum computing machines hit the market, they will revolutionize an entire industry. However, significant progress must be made before quantum computers have a mainstream use.

Quantum computing works by being able to make multiple calculations at one time. Traditional computing works by only making one calculation at a time. While traditional machines do these calculations at an impressive speed, only doing one at a time does limit their capabilities. Quantum computers have no such limitations and can do multiple calculations as fast or faster than traditional computers.

Though this may not sound like a major advancement, the ability to make multiple calculations at once can make a big difference in quantum computing. In fact, quantum computers could make today's supercomputers look like children's toys. In fact, quantum computing has the potential to make computers using its technology millions of times more powerful than today's most powerful computers.

The key to quantum computing is the qubit. Qubits are different than traditional bits, which can only hold a value of 0 or 1, commonly known as binary to computer users. Instead of being one or the other, qubits can hold a value of both 0 and 1, as well as all values between 0 and 1. Qubits are very small properties, being made of atoms, ions, photons or electrons.

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Because quantum computing uses such small instruments on which to store information, the data can become easily corrupted. In order to make quantum computing practical, an effective way must be devised to stabilize qubits so that their values will not change under normal circumstances. If the value does change, it will be to 0 or 1. This makes a qubit no more effective than a traditional bit.

While the capabilities of quantum computing are exciting, the concept can also be dangerous. A practical quantum computer, if it fell into the wrong hands, could be a very dangerous piece of equipment. Due to the fact that quantum computers are able to process many calculations and work with very large numbers, they would be able to code and decode information very quickly. In fact, current encryption methods would be no problem for a quantum computer. This would put very sensitive information at risk of being hacked for a number of nefarious purposes.

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