Although computers have become more compact and considerably faster in performing their task, the task remains the same: to manipulate and interpret an encoding of binary bits into a useful computational result. A bit is a fundamental unit of information, classically represented as a 0 or 1 in your digital computer. Each classical bit is physically realized through a macroscopic physical system, such as the magnetization on a hard disk or the charge on a capacitor. A document, for example, comprised of n-characters stored on the hard drive of a typical computer is accordingly described by a string of 8n zeros and ones. Herein lies a key difference between your classical computer and a quantum computer. Where a classical computer obeys the well understood laws of classical physics, a quantum computer is a device that harnesses physical phenomenon unique to quantum mechanics (especially quantum interference) to realize a fundamentally new mode of information processing.
In a quantum computer, the fundamental unit of information (called a quantum bit or qubit), is not binary but rather more quaternary in nature. This qubit property arises as a direct consequence of its adherence to the laws of quantum mechanics which differ radically from the laws of classical physics. A qubit can exist not only in a state corresponding to the logical state 0 or 1 as in a classical bit, but also in states corresponding to a blend or superposition of these classical states. In other words, a qubit can exist as a zero, a one, or simultaneously as both 0 and 1, with a numerical coefficient representing the probability for each state.
Friday, March 25, 2005
On Quantum Computing
On quantum computing see Jacob West, The Quantum Computer: An Introduction (2000), including the following passage: