Here‘s a vague, yet interesting, article that touches on the subject of the so-called quantum revolution:
Within a few years the lives of most people will be touched by the quantum revolution – a change as profound as cars, flight, antibiotics or the Internet.
Progress in understanding the arcane laws that govern nature at the sub-atomic level and spectacular new advances in minuscule technology are ushering humanity into the quantum age, said Professor Gerard Milburn, head of Quantum Nanoscience at The University of Queensland
“Most people have heard of nanotechnology as the building of new materials at the molecular or atomic scale. Well that’s the stone axe age compared to what’s coming,” Professor Milburn predicts.
More impressive than nanotech?
Okay… so far, so good.
“This is the new era of building revolutionary materials and devices out of individual atoms and particles – things that obey the bizarre rules of quantum mechanics, rather than familiar physics, and can do new things.”
It is also moving with blinding speed. In recent weeks two international groups have announced that they have built devices consisting of a handful of quantum switches which have the power of 256 ordinary transistor switches.
Another example is the creation of “molecular magnets” from crystals of organo-mettalic molecules. Like normal magnets these point north or south and so can be used as incredibly small on/off switches and to store bits of information in much the same way a computer does.
“By engineering different kinds of materials at atomic scales we can make tiny devices – for example a minute cantilever that is so sensitive it can tell which way a single electron is pointing, so you could use it to store bits of information,” he said.
“This isn’t the next step in computing. It’s a whole new era in technology, and it is arriving at a breathtaking pace.”
Basically, these guys are talking about a quantum computer. Quantum computers exploit the bizarre laws of quantum physics, which allow them to look at the two sides of a coin at one time, whereas a conventional computer can only look at one side at a time.
Quantum computers won’t help you boot your Windows faster, but they are excellent at solving problems that require exponentially more computational power with linearly increasing input. Quantum computers can solve problems like these in seconds or minutes, whereas a conventional computer would need billions of years.
And yes, I agree… that would definately usher in a new era in technology.
Because obscene amounts of computational power like this will allow for highly detailed simulations of things such as weather and medicine. Especially simulations of cells, organs and eventually entire human bodies are going to be progressively important in the future. Simulations give researchers ‘reality in a chip’. And reality in a chip is so much easier to research than reality in… well… reality.
The boost that this will give to medical research will be enormous, which in turn will lead to a revolution in global health:
By using single electrons or light particles to store information, the prospect is for computers of immense speed and power, able to tackle the most complex computational problems from predicting climate to designing perfectly-adapted drugs, in a fraction the time taken by today’s machines.
It also means the arrival of a host of new materials, engineered from the ground up, atom by atom, to transform manufacturing and even medicine: “Scientists are already working on a new generation of biomaterials which interact with the body far more safely and effectively than those today,” he said.
Among the new devices in development is the “quantum dot”, in effect an artificial atom in which electrons are confined at various energy levels, and then can be kicked to a different level to perform a specific task.
“For instance, a quantum dot could be used as a sensor to detect something with exquisite precision, and then give a flash of light, consisting of a single photon, to signal the detection.”
In the last few years, impressive progress has been made in science’s holy quest to build a quantum computer. I have read articles in which researchers state that they have solved quantum related problems of which they thought they wouldn’t solve them in a century. Many other breakthroughs have been made since. There are just too many of them, or I’d list a few. Just google around, and you’re bound to find plenty of information.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that quantum computers are feasible, and I would not be surprised if the first one will be built in the coming years.
For more information, see my previous post about mass production of quantum chips.