Watch a new quantum revolution
On July 25, 2018, a group of scientists from Microsoft, Google, and IBM sat on a stage at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. Matthias Troyer, John Martinis, and Pat Gumann were all working on research in quantum computing, which taps into our knowledge of quantum mechanics, the physics of how the world works at the smallest level.
The evening was billed as a night to ask the experts “Quantum Questions”.
About an hour after the event started, moderator and historian David Brock asked scientists one more thing: What about quantum computing as it is today? “
Troyer drew attention to the museum exhibits around them. “When you look at the history of computing… the abacus works on the same principle as the most modern and fastest classical processor. It is discrete digital logic. There has been no change in the way we calculate for 5,000 years.
“And now is the time that that changes,” he said, “because with quantum computing we are radically changing the way we use nature to calculate.”
Scientists have called this moment the second quantum revolution. The first quantum revolution brought us developments like the transistor, which enabled the creation of modern, powerful and portable electronic devices.
We do not yet know what this new revolution will bring. But many computer scientists, physicists and engineers are hard at work to find out. Around the world, research institutes, universities and businesses have stepped up their investments in quantum science.
In late 2018, the United States passed the National Quantum Initiative Act, which led to the creation of five new Department of Energy quantum information science research centers; five new National Science Foundation Quantum Leap Challenge institutes; and the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Quantum Economic Development Consortium.
Efforts to develop quantum computers, quantum sensors, and quantum networks have the potential to change our lives. And some of the earliest applications of these developments could be in particle physics and astrophysics research.
Throughout the month of January, Symmetry will publish a series of articles intended to give readers a better understanding of this quantum ecosystem – the physical ideas on which it is based, the ways in which this knowledge can be applied and what will determine the shape of our quantum future.