A Shortcut Through Time: The Path to the Quantum Computer by George Johnson

By George Johnson

During this remarkably illustrative and punctiliously available examine some of the most interesting frontiers in technology and pcs, award-winning manhattan occasions author George Johnson finds the attention-grabbing international of quantum computing—the holy grail of great pcs the place the computing strength of unmarried atoms is harnassed to create machines in a position to virtually unbelievable calculations within the blink of an eye.As machine chips proceed to slash in measurement, scientists count on the tip of the line: a working laptop or computer during which every one swap is constructed from a unmarried atom. any such equipment might function less than a special set of actual legislation: The legislation of quantum mechanics. Johnson lightly leads the curious outsider throughout the strangely uncomplicated rules had to comprehend this dream, discussing the present country of the revolution, and finally assessing the amazing strength those machines can have to alter our global.

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Imagine Tinkertoy spindles, light-years long, encoding motion pictures. Making something so huge and unwieldy is possible only in the mind (or in a computer simulation) . But the lesson stands: Any computer no matter how complex consists of a bunch of lit­ tle objects that can be in two positions, 1 or 0. Allow them to interact and any pattern-a mathematical equation, a novel, a symphony, a painting, or a movie-can be stored and processed. The beauty of the binary code lies in this irreducible simplic­ ity.

Einstein liked to challenge commonplace assumptions with fanciful thought experiments. An early breakthrough in his the­ ory of relativity came when he considered the contradictions that would arise if one could travel fast enough to catch up with a beam of light. The waves would appear to be standing still, it seemed, and it wouldn't be light anymore. In their attack on quantum mechanics, he and his collabora­ tors tried to prove that it led to an absurd conclusion. In what has become known as the EPR (Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen) argument, they imagined a particle that decays to produce two photons flying off in opposite directions.

The old notions of computation begin to crumble, and we're no longer playing with Tinkertoys. I confess that, on the deepest level, I find quantum mechanics hard to swallow. I know I'm not alone. The brain was molded by evolution to guide people through a world of objects made from many atoms, so many that the weird quantum effects are not evident. Things appear to be either here or there, spinning this way or that. Whatever progress can be made in grasping how opposites can coexist on the atomic realm comes from acknowledging the narrowness of the human point of view.

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