Sunday, February 11, 2007

Quantum Computing: On The Edge Of It All

D-Wave, a private company in Burbaby, British Columbia will launch a demonstration of the world's first commercial Quantum Computer for public scrutiny next Tuesday February 13th in Mountain View, California. The potential breakthrough, if true, would stand the world on its head coming as it does 20 years earlier than it's predicted arrival.

D-Wave's 16 Q bit Quantum computer, in theory, would offer a scale of computing power that is hardly contained in any conventional frame of reference.

By way of comparison the everyday computers we use work on processing information on the
"yes or no" values of the 1 and 0 duality of the bit, the smallest unit of information storage - an outgrowth of technology based on switching circuits on and off. The number of combinations and permutations of groups of these bits define the limits of processing power of these computers. The race has always been to overcome these limitations with ever smaller parts in increasingly swifter processors.The mechanical limits of the extent of these changes are now on the visible horizon.

The Quantum computer would potentially demolish the limitations of this old paradigm with a single stroke.

The Q bit of the Quantum computer depends on information processing on the spin of electrons so there can be values of anything in
between 1 and 0 in , a condition known as superposition. This, a result of the weirdness of quantum theory where probability waves stretching into parallel universes appear to define these indeterminate states, perhaps. The theory is a still a work in progress and really beyond easy understanding, even in a limited sense, except for the experts and even among them there is hardly any consensus.

In practical terms, the Quantum computer with its indeterminate base values offers an exponential increase in the number of combinations and permutations of groups of these values thus allowing an astronomical increase in processing power. A 1000 Q bit Quantum computer will be said to have a processing power billions of times greater than all of the computers ever made. Truly, a breathtaking possibility.

The project has been pushed along by the herculean efforts of Geordie Rose, who comes off like a latter day Nietzchean superman. The former national cham
pion wrestler, trained in theoretical physics gathered the necessary venture capital and collaboration of experts the world over, combined with his own brilliance to perhaps make the seemingly impossible world of Quantum computing a possibility. His efforts to do so outlined in the following excellent article: Quantum Leap

Rose's work has grown out of the work of many prior researchers, in particular Seth Lloyd who has suggested dramatically that the Universe itself is really just a quantum computer in his book Programming the Universe

A functioning quantum computer would, in effect, challenge the pardigm of conventional computing so it might
face obstacles. Such disruptive technology as it is known would possibly come into conflict with the enormous established capital inlays of the worlds richest companies, unless the technology was co-opted into their own structures. How it will turn out is any one's guess.

Michael Crichton's novel Timeline published in 1999 was a fanciful speculation on the possibilities of time travel to a multiverse of a different time with the use of a quantum computer. The book took the idea of what is possible to a whole different level but considering that the processing power of quantum computers would allow us to do things that we could hardly conceive, then who knows where it could lead .

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