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Quantum Computing: A motivation

28 Sept 2017

As a lay man, I used to wonder what quantum is? Is it breaking into another abstraction of the sub atomic? Can we harness quanta? What does it look like? Just breaking into the ice, I'd quote it simply, Quantum is real. And along comes its spectacular properties.

Two weeks have been passed since I dived into Quantum Computing. It is motivating indeed to think of the quantum phenomena of entanglement and quantum teleportation. But as intriguing and spectacular the world of quantum is, even more is the complexity. Prof Feynman once said, "If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics". That was a thought somewhere in the corner of my head while choosing this as a major, but despite the odds it needs to be done. Thus, I sit here in the classroom of roughly 150 (and a few people live from University of Twente and TU Eindhoven). My professors are Leo DiCarlo and David Elkouss from QuTech in Applied Sciences. They are one of the best and leading research scientists in the Quantum World. I was reading about the loophole free bell-test that was performed at TU Delft a couple of years ago and these people were the ones who actually did that! They disproved Einstein! (Read: Loophole Free Bell Test - Nature)

Quantum starts with qubits, the fundamental unit of quantum computation, a state that can be |0⟩, |1⟩ or a superposition of |0⟩ and |1⟩, represented as |ψ⟩ = α|0⟩ + β|1⟩. This is the only basic stuff that you can actually take away from your first lecture. As you progress, qubits have representation, along is qubit measurements and qubit computation using quantum gates. The beauty of quantum fundamentals appears when we represent it mathematically and we can actually see phenomena being proved through maths. Its all in the math!

Why do I study quantum, you ask? A theory that was once unacceptable to Einstein, is emerging. Moore's Law got the world of digital computing so far. What is the future of computing? How would you solve large computations, so complex, not be solved using parallel computing or even super computers? The answer lies in quantum. As an analogy, here's a fact: To simulate a quantum computer with 100 qubits we would require twice the amount of data storage as is the total data of the world, at present, which is a few Zetabytes.

If you ask what other problems can be solved on a quantum computer? The implications are immense - optimization problems, molecule simulations, airplane simulation, genome sequencing, chemistry and drug development. In fact, to be fair, the true potential of quantum computing (quantum supremacy) is not know yet.

Once remarked as "entirely useless" field of physics, Quantum Mechanics is no doubt a weirdo of Physics. Coming up with good quantum algorithms is hard. But Why? Our human intuition is rooted in the classical world. To design good quantum algorithms, one must turn-off one’s classical intuition for at least part of the design process using truly quantum effects to achieve the desired algorithmic end. And, It is not enough to design that is only quantum mechanical. It must be better than any existing classical algorithm.

Quantum Computation and Quantum Information requires quantum mechanics, computer science, information theory and cryptography. And most important of all, it requires a leap in the imagination to progress in such a field of study. After these two weeks, I can say Quantum is fun, It just needs to be viewed right.

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