Nobel Prize awards Quantum Strides and Leaps in Physics

Oct 12, 2012
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Breakthroughs in quantum computing were awarded this week to two scientists Serge Haroche, of Paris, France and David J. Wineland of Milwaukee, USA. The coveted Nobel Prize in Physics was earned “for ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems.”

The Nobel scientists achieved distinct methods to directly analyze fragile quantum states. Haroche manipulated the photon trajectory by use of an atom trap to collect his data. Alternatively, Wineland trapped charged atoms (ions) and measured them by use of photons. The manipulation of quantum systems has the potential to make our watches 100x more precise, computers brilliantly faster, and make advances in creating simulations in nature.

Back in 1925 Schrodinger’s breakthrough discovery of the wavelike properties of quantum particles was in direct opposition to the observations of classical physics. Wave functions describe a particle’s position in multiple places at once. The huge barrier behind Quantum computing was this very mystery in observing all the possible states, instead of just one.

Classical computing systems are based on alternating transistors between 0 and 1. Quantum computers theoretically involve the superposition of 0 or 1 processing the nearly infinitely possible superposed states simultaneously. To complete an operation at a gate speed of 0.1 ms would require bits in superposition for approximately a year.

Why is quantum computing so important to tech entrepreneurs? To support our increasing computing demands, not just for everyday but every minute of everyday, requires a correspondingly massive processing power. In 2007 a Canadian start-up, D-Wave, launched a computer demonstrating control of a 16-qubit system. Due to scaling issues, the prototype was not successful at reducing search times for massive databases. For digital entrepreneurs this should be like the unveiling of the structure of DNA as it opened the doors of the field of genetics including population genetics, human genome projects, and innovating medical treatments. Truth is, technology is evolving and we can only expect these opportunities to grow in our favor. Thanks to the academy for recognizing major technology history!