Quantum Computer to Log Onto Quantum Internet

A quantum computer would be able to store more bits of information in its memory than there are particles in the universe.

When it comes to data crunching, quantum computers will leave today's fastest processors in the dust.

For starters, a quantum computer would be able to store more bits of information in its memory than there are particles in the universe. And where a conventional silicon-based computer handles one computation at a time in sequence, a quantum computer would work on millions at once.

That kind of staggering power would give a single quantum computer the ability to simulate a whole world in a holographic environment, replicate biological systems to understand diseases and find cures, solve the loads of equations necessary to create extremely accurate weather forecasting and simulate how subatomic particles interact, showing fundamentally how everything in the universe works.

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Several quantum computers linked together would make a quantum Internet so powerful that search engines would respond to queries almost like a human being, answering questions immediately and in any language.

In recent months, different groups of scientists and engineers have made important strides toward this amazing new world. They have built machines that can store quantum particles, control them, observe them and send them over fiber-optic cables.

For people in the field, it's an exciting time. "We're gradually removing the stumbling blocks," said Bill Munro, a research scientist at Japanese phone giant NTT, who has done extensive research into quantum computing. "We've shown with the initial experiments that (quantum computing) can work."

Some of the most recent work published in this area has come from scientists at Aalto University in Finland, who have found a way to store quantum particles, see them and change them.

Like conventional computers, quantum computers work by manipulating bits of information. In current computers and laptops, the bits are comprised of electrons, the magnetic fields of metal particles on a disk or the open and closed circuits on a microchip. They're stored as "0s" or "1s" and long strings make the binary code that's the essence of every program.

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In quantum computers, the bits are actually not physical particles, but units of information called qubits that describe the state of particles, including atoms and subatomic particles, such as ions, electrons and photons. For example, a qubit might be represented by the direction in which an electron spins or the polarization of a photon of light – that is, how it's oriented.

Qubits can be either a "0" or a "1," or both a "0" and a "1" simultaneously -- a characteristic called superposition, which is what gives a quantum computer its extraordinary ability to process so much information at once. And like regular electronic bits, qubits need to be controlled and stored in order to get a desired input or output. You need some way to interface with them, just like you need a mouse or a keyboard to interface with the bits in a PC.

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