What is Quantum computing? How is it different to regular computing?

Image of different visuals relating to quantum computing

This week’s blog musings endeavour to dip just a toe into the water of the world of Quantum computing.

A little bit of background (and I mean teeny tiny as it’s a HUGE topic even though it studies the teeny tiny!)

At the beginning of the 20th Century, a branch of science called Quantum Mechanics was developed alongside your Classical mechanics (not people who fix up old cars in 50’s films). Here’s a couple of examples of both as it’s probably best we look at that first then we can go on to the Quantum computing bit…

Graphic comparing classical and quantum mechanics

So if there would be no computers without Quantum, why do people talk about ‘Computing’ and ‘Quantum Computing’?

Again, avoiding falling down a big big ol’ rabbit hole….

Regular computers have ‘bits’. Quantum computers have ‘qubits’. Both types of bits are the smallest unit of data for measuring their respective information. Those who have been in any of my sessions may have heard me bang on about computers working in 0’s and 1’s when talking about a computer being a simple soul who thinks in zeros and ones and it’s either on or it’s off like the flick of a light switch.

Bits therefore don’t multi-task, they just do on or off (they still do it super-fast so I’m not knocking it!).

Qubits are multi-taskers, they can be on or off or anywhere in between at the same time making them much quicker at getting jobs done. This picture helped me wrap my head around it a bit (pardon the pun);

Credit: Microsoft Azure Resources - What is a Qubit

So what does any of this have to do with us regular non Nobel prize winning folk and why should we care?

Well, here’s a couple of big old reasons;

1. Keeping those criminal’s thieving paws off our data.

“In the future, quantum computing could enable malicious actors to break encryption keys quickly, rendering 64, 128, or 256-bit public key RSA algorithms obsolete. However, the same concept would allow organizations to build unbreakable defences.” https://www.spiceworks.com/it-security/cyber-risk-management/articles/will-quantum-computing-change-cybersecurity/

2. Disease research leading to potential cures for diseases like Cancer and Dementia.

“Quantum computers have the ability to solve certain problems much more efficiently than their traditional predecessors. This could make it possible to improve predictions whether malignant cancers will develop in tissue at a later stage.” https://www.tno.nl/en/digital/digital-innovations/trusted-ict/quantum-computers-cancer-detection/

The Future?

Whilst the general view is that it will be over 10 years or more at the time of writing before Quantum computing goes mainstream, like all the other potential game changers in our world the earlier we start preparing and the more we know and understand the better.

How do you feel about it?

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