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Written by: Anne Nicholson, Brand Strategy Lead IBM A/NZ

Beginner’s Guide to Quantum Computing

Quantum computing has the potential to be transformative because of its ability to solve complex world problems. Below are some quantum facts to get you primed. We’ve also included a beginner’s guide video presented by IBM’s Dr. Talia Gershon.

Coffee – simply delicious, but complex

cup of coffee

The computers we know and love today are called classical computers, but there are some problems that they’re incapable of solving. Consider the caffeine molecule in a cup of coffee. That tiny molecule is so complex that no classic computer exists, or could be built, that would be capable of modeling caffeine and fully understanding its detailed structure and properties. This is the type of challenge quantum has the potential to tackle.

Find the queen

Classic computers think in strings of 1s and 0s. Quantum computers , like the one being tested in the IBM Research Quantum Lab, can process 1s and 0s at the same time, like being in two places at once. It’s called superposition.

A simple way of understanding the differences between classical computers and quantum computers is to watch how the two would compete to find a queen amongst four playing cards. Try our demonstration here.

Spooky Action at a distance

Albert Einstein

A cornerstone of quantum physics is a process called entanglement. This is where two particles share an existence. In essence this means one particle will directly and instantly affect the other, even if that other particle is many light-years away. Albert Einstein thought this preposterous and called entanglement “spooky action at a distance.” He was wrong. Various experiments have shown entanglement does exist. This year, Chinese researchers were able to use satellite technology for the first time to generate and transmit entangled photons (particles of light) across a record distance of 1,200 kilometres on Earth. What this could mean is the world is getting closer to creating a secure global-scale quantum internet.

Come and play with quantum

 IBM Q is an industry-first initiative to build commercially available universal quantum computing systems. As part of this effort, we wanted to invite the world to play with and explore quantum computing. So we created the IBM Q experience, which enables anyone to connect, at no cost, to one of IBM’s quantum processors via the IBM Cloud. Giving you the chance to run algorithms and experiments you may not otherwise be able to solve. We currently have 45,000 users worldwide. We even have experiments taking place in Antarctica, where Dr. Christine Corbett Moran is running experiments on the IBMQX between measurements on the South Pole telescope.

It’s chilly when you’re a quantum computer

outer space

IBM’s quantum computer is cooled to a fraction of a degree away from absolute zero. That’s colder than outer space! We do this so the computer’s innermost niobium and aluminium components aren’t disrupted by outside influences. For this reason, it will be some time before quantum comes to you in your mobile phone or lap top. Take a 360 tour of our lab here…

Want to hear the sounds of IBM Q?

Why it matters

IBM's quantum computer

Quantum computing has the potential to usher in a new era of innovation across industries. This leap forward in computing could, for example, lead to the discovery of new pharmaceutical drugs, completely secure cloud computing systems, unlock new facets of artificial intelligence or develop new materials science to transform industries.






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Quantum computing has the potential to be transformative because of its ability to solve complex world problems. Business, science, education and government could change in fundamentally new ways. Explore the strange and exciting world of quantum computing below. What is quantum computing? Recently WIRED challenged IBM’s Dr Talia Gershon (Senior Manager, Quantum Research) to explain […]

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