In the keynote speech at the recent Microsoft Ignite 2017 conference, CEO Satya Nadella announced that Microsoft would be focusing on quantum computing for the foreseeable future. Also, Microsoft revealed the creation of a new coding language explicitly designed for quantum computers. The language will be released later this year.
The computers we use today are portable personal devices that use a variety of coding languages to perform operations on values and objects. That series of actions is the computation that gives the name “computer” to our devices. Our computers work quickly. At astonishing speed, they use 0 and 1 as the two digits of the computer language that makes our laptops turn on. This two-digit code is called “binary code,” and the long series of operations or processes most common today is called “classical computing.”
Every application for our devices – and every portal, forum, platform, and screen display – is coded into our hardware and software using a variety of computer languages that rely on binary code to perform any function. Even our most amazing computers – ones with keyboards made of light or those that run on water droplets – work in the same way.
A long series of 0’s and 1’s tells our computer what to do: start, end task, open social media, search a term or play a game. More complicated coding languages are used to create software, but the machine hardware recognizes binary code to function. Binary code is also referred to as “machine language” for this reason.
Quantum computers are computers that utilize principles from particle physics, including quantum mechanics, to function. Classical computing does not use the laws and principles of quantum reality. “Quantum” is used to describe particles so small that their physical properties cannot be measured. There is evidence that they are somewhere, but like the proverbial Gingerbread Man, they cannot be “caught” long enough to be measured with any accuracy.
Some refer to the quantum state – the level of small that is even smaller than sub-atomic – as a state of flux, or state of energy only. Few, if any, agreements have been made in the field of quantum mechanics about laws and rules for “quantum particles.”
So, how can we quantum compute? The theories, brought into computing as a result of quantum studies that are creating conditions for possible computer applications include “particle entanglement” and “action at a distance.”
Instead of a binary system, quantum computer language and machine developers are working with an either/or system. The digit is not definitively a 0 or a 1 until a function is performed, so there is no need for a long string of 0’s and 1’s at all. When two particles are entangled, what is true about one is true of the other, even if they are a long distance from one another. Albert Einstein gave us his theories on how tiny particles can communicate over long distances. Capitalizing on that by creating quantum computers would mean information transfer at hyper-speed.
Microsoft does not yet have a quantum computer; testing of the language is taking place right now. If he were alive today, Richard Feynman, the theoretical physicist of CalTech fame, might wonder if Microsoft is investing in a fool’s errand. At the level of quantum, the only theory may be possible. Moreover, quick information transfer is useful only if we can control it.
Quantum computing was considered a laughable concept by many academics just a few decades ago. Today, it is no longer a joke – new applications for quantum computing are being discussed in academic and practical technology circles. People are interested in what quantum computing means and curious about how its potential applications will be applied and made available.
These are developments to watch if you enjoy technology. Quantum computing has tremendous implications for data reliability, message integrity, information security, medical applications and communication opportunities. Microsoft might well achieve the impossible.