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Quantum Computing: Just Over the Horizon or Another Galaxy Away?

By Dick Weisinger

Quantum Computing will be a revolution for computing. Quantum is expected to propel computing past many of the limits in the areas of speed, size and efficiency that currently confront traditional computing.

David L. Carroll, physics professor at Wake Forest University, told TechNewsWorld that “our world is already full of problems that are hard for even the fastest computers — from biological problems like gene expression and protein folding, to simulations of quantum behavior in the nuclear arsenal. We simplify these problems by making unphysical assumptions so that our computers can handle them. That will no longer be necessary in the quantum computing future.”

Prineha Narang, assistant professor in materials Science at Harvard, said that “quantum computing is poised to radically change the way we approach problems in fields like chemistry. The vast processing power of quantum computers means we can, for example, simulate complex chemical compounds. This has implications for improved drug discovery, better batteries and cleaner fertilizers.”

But while many buy into the promise of quantum computing, there has been considerable debate about the reality of the timeline presented for quantum computing.

Scott Aaronson, physics professor at the University of Texas, is one of the skeptics. He said that “quantum computing has yet to reach the transistor level — the equivalent of the second-generation of classical computers, which entered use in the mid-1950s. We are barely into the equivalent of vacuum tubes.”

Sankar Das Sarma, quantum researcher at the University of Maryland, agrees. He wrote in MIT Technology Review that “I’m disturbed by some of the quantum computing hype I see these days, particularly when it comes to claims about how it will be commercialized. The qubit systems we have today are a tremendous scientific achievement, but they take us no closer to having a quantum computer that can solve a problem that anybody cares about. It is akin to trying to make today’s best smartphones using vacuum tubes from the early 1900s.”

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