But you don't have to go all the way down to the subatomic to find good candidates for qubits. Ions--atoms whose electrons and protons are out of balance, giving them a net charge--can be fantastic qubits, wherein the spin of the nucleus represents the 0/1 classical states. Trapped by an electric field and laser-cooled inside of a vacuum chamber, ions are very well isolated from external factors that could mess with their fragile quantum states, giving them very long coherence times. The fact that they are charged also makes them far more manipulable--via electric fields--than neutral atoms.
But while it's easy enough, relatively speaking, to trap one ion (or even a few ions) in a vacuum chamber, a system dependent on highly-tuned electric fields and cooling lasers that need to be switched on and off with very precise timing becomes vastly more complex with each additional ion. When you start to think of dozens or hundreds of qubits, the idea of scaling this kind of system becomes the primary challenge.
"You can't just build a hundred or a thousand or a million of them on a chip like we do with transistors," says Boris Blinov, an associate professor of physics and principal investigator at the University of Washington's Trapped Ion Quantum Computing Group. "That's how we scale regular computers today. With ions, you have to figure out a way of arranging them in one location in such a way that they will interact in the ways necessary for quantum computing. In this way, ions are at a disadvantage."
Blinov and his team are working to circumvent this problem via a modular approach that employs many microfabricated ion traps. Each chip-like trap would hold several ions--but not too many--and interaction between chips would be accomplished by beaming photons around the system via a network of fiber optic cables. By entangling these single photons with the trapped ions and beaming them around the system, ions on different chips in a system could interact at the quantum level.
Sound mind-bendy? It is. But working with barium ions Blinov and his group are making slow but steady progress. If they or another research group can solve the scalability problem--and right now, "ifs" are abundant in this field--ions could turn out to be viable qubits in a future quantum computer.
The Supercomputer of the Future
Of course, the same could be said for any of the aforementioned potential qubits, and for any number of other approaches to quantum computing inching forward within the global physics community. The method that finally produces a working quantum computer--maybe sometime in the next decade, maybe beyond that--could be one of the ones mentioned above, another avenue that is just beginning to be researched, or one not even conceived of yet.
"It's very important to remember that this is still a scientific endeavor," Harvard's Yacoby says. "Our trajectory is constantly interrupted by things we discover. Sometimes we think one thing and it turns out to be something else. This can be an obstacle, but some of those discoveries turn out to be quantum leaps forward. We're finding things we didn't know as we go along, and our trajectories are corrected."
But while the road ahead is shrouded in a mysterious quantum fog, there is some consensus about what a finished quantum computer will look like. For one, it will have a classical component to it that will actually run the quantum algorithms within the quantum computer. It will be large, comprised of both a classical supercomputer and the quantum computer, which--depending on the qubits--could be a series of vacuum chambers and optical tables, or row after row of super-cooled chambers for cooling particles down to nearly absolute zero (or something else entirely).
This construction, whatever it will be, presents a challenge in itself. Classical electronics perform more and more poorly the lower the temperature goes, so interfacing classical and quantum computers that require low-Kelvin temperatures will require feats of engineering that current technology cannot adequately solve. But by and large, those working in the quantum computing community believe that in the time it takes them to build their perfect qubits, the practical engineering issues will also sort themselves out. And when they do, researchers believe we'll unlock a kind of computing power that will drastically impact the entire spectrum of human knowledge--even in ways we haven't thought of yet.
"It's not so straightforward to predict where computing goes," says IBM's Steffen. "If you were to ask the folks that invented the transistor where it was going, they couldn't have imagined what it would one day lead to. The same is true for quantum computing."
Why do we keep hearing computers are ever faster and more powerfull? this is the biggest lie, or computers are being artificially slowed down for consumers. The guy at J&R actually admitted that "it's just the way it is" when I complained that I can't find a computer as fast as the one that I used in 2000. Sound cards all have latency now which makes music making impossible on pc's with out buying external soundcards. Computers are not faster now. My dell from 2000 was lightning fast enabling me to make edits faster than my fingers could move, compared to the fastest computer I can get now which takes a second to think after each edit which is extremely frustrating and distracting. Would someone tell the truth for once and explain this?
@ Jonahfreedman Computers are much much faster than they were when you had in 2000. The problem is that the operating system and programs we are using are also magnitudes greater than they were back then. Install windows 2000 and an early version of whatever editing program you used. I feel the same way many times, I miss my XP and its speed and reliability.
-Two both above-
Switching to the older OS will only slow things down more. The reason things don't feel faster isn't because of hardware but because of software.
They are making phones that have the same if not more processing power than a computer from 2000. Hardware is making amazing leaps forward.
It is efficiency that is hurting your program and its not the OS's fault (Depending on which your using)
Windows 7 professional is currently the best program. It supports multithreading and hyperthreading better than previous renditions. The professional moniker gives you the support for much higher RAM ammounts.
The program your using is probably running slower:
A) Because it doesn't support Multithreading.
B) It isn't properly written for efficiency, I have noticed many programs these days have been written with tons of features which is great, but they seem to be forgoing efficiency, which is something that changes drastically depending on HOW it is written.
Since I know nothing about music editing programs, I couldn'y make a recomendation for you on which one to use, but I would suggest a search for one that properly uses the resources available.
But stating that hardware isn't any faster than 2000, and comparing the speeds of a 2000 computer to today is just a silly thoughtless remark.
I don't see what this article has to do with Energy, seeing that it is in the energy category.
Why not discuss interesting things that really do apply to energy and have far reaching implications?
Such as this:
Great introductory article to quantum computing. It's still in its baby stages and coming along quickly, I wouldn't be surprised if the first quantum computer hits the shelfs within 15yrs. I always wonder though if they will set a limit to how many qubits allowable for consumer use, since they are so powerful. In the wrong hands it could be a very dangerous weapon. I, by no means know a lot about this subject, but from what I have gathered 25 qubits would suffice for even the most demanding tasks such as 3D modeling, photo/video editing, gaming..etc. I think that quantum computers will be able to solve all the mysteries of life, the universe, and also come up with the best designs. With a quantum computer that has thousands of qubits you could easily design the entire universe and it's properties to an amazing degree of accuracy (I think you only need 30 qubits to "represent every particle in the known universe...correct me if am wrong). Imagine designing the universe and then programing the quantum computer to come up with the best design solution for cars, space shuttles, solar panels, medicine..etc. It would be a program that would work on the same concept as evolution to come up with the best solution and if it has thousands of qubits it will only take a small amount of time to come up with a solution since it'll be so ridiculously powerful...it's so exciting just thinking about it!
@jonahfreedman refuge88 could not have put it any better. The hardware on computers now are insanely powerful, if you ran the same exact programs on modern computers that you did on ones from 2000, you will noticed how much faster they are. I know that the computer I have now has 10x more processing power than the one I got 9 years ago. What music program are you using? Try cockus reaper, it's small but very powerful, I haven't used it that much but it seems very promising for a person in your situation (and the unlicensed version which is the same as the licensed one is free on their website). Ableton live and FL studio are also great. I feel like cubase is too big and cumbersome, but that's just me there are loads of people that swear by it. Are you sure you have the settings set up properly to avoid latency? It's always a good idea to get a powerful soundcard no matter what if you are going to use a DAW. Also consumer computers are horrible, you can build your own (it's VERY easy) it'll be cheaper, more powerful, and you'll be able to personalize it to your needs, I highly recommend it.
I think that in order for quantam computers to hit the shelves in 15 years. Superconductive materials must be made to perform at room temperatures. Trying to bring down the temp to .10 degrees absolute zero is very energy consuming. It either takes a lot of energy or expensive liquid nitrogen.
Hmm, I wonder if they tried creating or holding qubits in a GEL , as in gel packs or somthing simular.
And folks , once thay have this qubit reality, the skies the limit, we talking - talking thinking computer type applications, perhaps the Android (DATA) is in the further future.
I'm not the treky fan, but do people realize how close we are to copying a star trek type future?
A qubit would work much like our own minds, with decision making skills, but better memory. We, as humans do the same thing, we think between right and wrong decisions constantly. Thats what a qubit would do, weigh all the possabilities in an instant.
Mankind has already copied so many idea's off star trek, so why stop ? Try gel packs like from Star Trek Voyager , see what happens. Besides, liquid water is a conductor with variable patterns of waves, but too uncontrolable, so try GEL...-. At least look at the way water works.
The problem is with programmers. The machine may work faster but the amount of data it has to go threw is monumental. I am not a expert but while studying electricity 20 some years ago I had to do some basic progamming. IT was pure and to the point, unlike today where they dont really understand bits or ladder logic, just packages and building upon someone elses work which makes the data involved with a simple function a problem. In computers they said it was the buss speed but even if you convert it to light speed it still depends upon the amount of data to achivie a simple point
sorry about the spelling I have not spent much time caring about this so long as one can understand what I am saying
After reading through all the comments I noticed that most people have the wrong idea about quantum computers. Most of the things that we do today on a computer like watching a video, writing something in a word document would actually take longer to do on a quantum computer. The quantum computer is only resourcefull for the scientist, not the everyday-man, it is only good at solving certain parallel algorithms that for the normal computer would take billions of years to do.