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A brief introduction to quantum computing


Quantum computing encompasses myriad complex elements that make up this marvelous supercomputer. We at Cybernews Academy want to introduce you to the world's most potent computer yet, introduce the fundamentals of quantum computing, and show you how to break into this field.

The beginnings of quantum computing

The origin story of quantum computing is a long and entropic narrative that includes various characters from multiple periods. Notably, Richard Feynman, alongside Yuri Manin, suggested that hardware based on quantum mechanics or quantum phenomena could be more effective for computer simulation. According to Medium, it took “more than ten years until a special algorithm was created to change the view on quantum computing.” This algorithm was pioneered by Peter Shor, who developed this blueprint in 1994, allowing quantum computers to process information more quickly than conventional computers. This system harnesses quantum mechanics, a fundamental idea in physics that describes the properties within nature by atoms and subatomic particles. In essence, the quantum computer is a supercomputer that can perform all the complex tasks that a standard computer can’t.

The fundamentals of quantum computing

By definition, a quantum computer is a computer that exploits quantum mechanical phenomena. This system harnesses quantum mechanics, a fundamental idea in physics that describes the properties within nature by atoms and subatomic particles. In essence, the quantum computer is a supercomputer that can perform all the complex tasks that a standard computer can’t. Now that we've discussed the quantum computer, what exactly is quantum computing? Amazon Web Services states that quantum computing is “a multi-disciplinary field comprising aspects of computer science, physics, and mathematics that utilizes quantum mechanics to solve complex problems faster than classical computers.”

Quantum computing terminology

This incredibly complex topic comes with its own set of vocabulary, which may help you understand the mechanics of quantum computing.

Qubit

Qubits are the basic building blocks of quantum computers. Unlike classical bits, which can exist in a state of 0 or 1, qubits can exist in a superposition of states, meaning they can represent 0, 1, or any combination of these states simultaneously. Medium describes qubits as spinning coins; conventionally, coins either land on heads or tails. Whereas with spinning coins, they are both heads and tails and simultaneously neither, all at the same time. This is what we mean by qubits being able to live in a superposition of states. This property enables quantum computers to process vast amounts of information in parallel. Otherwise known as a quantum bit, it is the fundamental unit of quantum information. Unlike the classical bit in a regular computer, which can be binary 0 or 1, qubits can exist in a superposition of states. This means they can represent both 0 and 1 simultaneously. This allows the quantum computer to process more data than a typical computer.

Entanglement

Another critical property of qubits is entanglement. When qubits become entangled, one qubit's state depends on another's, even when physically separated. This phenomenon allows quantum computers to perform calculations more efficiently than classical computers. This occurs when systems are closely connected, meaning that knowledge from one qubit gives you knowledge about the other. Scientists often think of entangled objects as a single entity since these objects share the same state even over vast distances. Imagine two people viewing two entangled balls that are in a state of superposition (for this example, they are both blue and green simultaneously.) They exist in superposition until you observe the balls. Once you observe the balls, if the first ball is blue, then the other ball will be blue too. Similarly, if the first ball is green, then the second one will be green. Now, if the balls are viewed from separate angles by one person, then the ball would revert to superposition, and they have a 50 percent chance of seeing either a blue or green ball. Now if the second person looks at the ball from the same angle, it will match what the first person saw. These balls are still entangled as they can remain entangled even if they are apart. But it all depends on how you look at the ball. This is because the entangled information regarding the color does not exist within a singular one ball; instead, it exists in the connection (the metaphorical string) between the balls.

Superposition

Superposition is the property of qubits that allows them to exist in multiple states simultaneously. An example provided by E&T explains that “an electron has two possible quantum states; spin up and spin down. When the electron is in superposition, it is both up and down at once.” Similar to the spinning coin analogy, which discusses a coin being either heads or tails, in superposition, a spinning coin is both heads and tails. Superposition is what makes quantum computing exceptional, enabling the computer to perform specific calculations much faster than classical computers. Amazon Web Services states, “This superposition of qubits gives quantum computers their inherent parallelism, allowing them to process millions of operations simultaneously.”

Decoherence

Quantum decoherence is a phenomenon in quantum mechanics that occurs when a quantum system, which is in a superposition of states entangled with other systems, interacts with its external environment or experiences other uncontrollable interactions. As a result of these interactions, the quantum system loses its delicate quantum properties and behaves more like a classical system with well-defined states. According got the Quantum Physics Lady, “Decoherence occurs when a quantum particle loses its coherence. When a quantum particle is coherent it acts wavelike and displays qualities that some consider to be quantum weirdness.” During the process of quantum decoherence, those properties that make a quantum particle quantum are taken away and it becomes a regular particular. These particles act as normal and follow the traditional laws of physics. Quantum decoherence poses a significant challenge in the development and operation of quantum computers. To harness the power of quantum computing, researchers must try to mitigate or control the challenging effects of quantum decoherence.

Using quantum computing

Some applications where quantum computers can provide a speed boost include machine learning (ML), optimization, and simulation of physical systems. One way that quantum computing can be used is to simulate quantum systems– which can help us understand how molecules and other materials behave. This understanding could greatly benefit the medical and pharmaceutical fields. According to IBM, their partners like Mercedes-Benz explore the benefits of quantum computing “to craft the future of electric vehicles.” Their other partners, like Exxon Mobile, are working with IBM Quantum to explore algorithms that tackle intricate energy issues. According to The Quantum Insider, many massive companies such as Google, IBM, Microsoft, and Intel facilitate quantum research. They add that “generally, large companies use quantum computing to explore a wide range of applications in the emerging field” to remain competitive. Other ways companies like Microsoft are using quantum computing research to help identify global and climate issues. Similarly, Rigetti Computing has indicated that quantum computing may be a more effective way to analyze very complex weather systems and other variables related to climate.

How to break into quantum computing

According to Indeed, starting out in quantum computing requires particular steps that ensure you receive the proper training, education, and experience needed to succeed. This involves a lot of learning that begins with choosing your career path and getting an undergraduate degree in a relevant field such as computer science, computer programming, software development, or mathematics. From there, you will want to further your studies by obtaining a graduate degree where you will develop your skills and focus on specific areas of quantum mechanics, like advanced mathematics and physics. Once you have completed your Master’s and even Ph.D., you should look into gaining relevant experience. You could evem contact the companies listed above that work with quantum computing research. Tech giants like Google, IBM, Microsoft, and Intel are all investing in research surrounding quantum computing. You can also consider internships in these companies and many others that will help build your skillsets and provide the relevant training you need to support your professional development. As technology constantly evolves, Indeed suggests that a person who wants to break into this field needs to continue working on their skills and obtain the knowledge necessary to combat the ever-growing changes within the industry.

The world of quantum computing is a rich and complex environment that is rapidly evolving. We at Cybernews Academy have only just scratched the surface of what quantum computing is and what quantum computers do. We hope to have introduced you to this incredible facet of computer science, its origins, how it works, some terminology to impress your peers and ways of breaking into the industry.