Only a few decades ago quantum technology was purely a theoretical thing. Something that scientists dreamed of. But now, even though this is still an emerging field of physics and engineering, we are very close to breaking through a great discovery.
Just in October 2019 Google “performed a test computation in just 200 seconds that would have taken the best-known algorithms in the most powerful supercomputers thousands of years to accomplish.”
The effects of quantum computing are promising in various areas because mathematical operations can be done considerably faster than the most powerful supercomputers to date can. This is achieved by relying on the principles of quantum physics.
While this might seem like something arcane or even impossible for some people, quantum-based technology has been in use for a while now. Take MRI machines, for example, which creates images based on the spinning of atoms inside our body.
Or some more common technology, like one that can fit in your hand and could tell you where you are at any given time, GPSs. Global Positioning Systems are based on quantum theory.
Among all the quantum technology, the one that causes more controversy is the quantum computer. Its immense computing power can be used to speed up research in medical fields, test more efficient building materials, have better control over certain processes, create algorithms that solve complex problems.
If you think of some of the listed benefits the impact of quantum computing does not seem all that bad. So, why the controversy? What are the negative effects of quantum computing?
To understand this better we have to first answer one question.
What is quantum computing?
The fact that there are quantum computers that can already operate 1 trillion times faster than what a supercomputer can, has led people to seriously question the cybersecurity implications of quantum computing.
Traditional computers store data in bits. Based on a binary system in which values are 1 an 0 which can translate to 2 states of information, positive and negative respectively. This binary system in which traditional computing is based is also the reason why Megabytes are composed of 1,024 Kilobytes, instead of just 1000 as the name implies.
Although current computing is not obsolete, the binary system has some limitations when it comes to really long and complex operations. Like the ones in which thousands of variables have an impact.
On the other hand, we have quantum-based computers that use qubits instead of bits. The interesting thing about these qubits is that they do not only represent a 1 or a 0 value, but they can also exist as both values at the same time. This quantum property is called superposition, the ability to be positive and negative at the same time.
One of the ways that a qubit can be created is by using superconductivity to maintain a quantum state of the particle. To achieve this, the superconducting qubits must be kept extremely cold, even colder than the vacuum of space. In fact, an absolute 0 cold, or as close as possible.
This is the lowest limit of temperature according to the laws of thermodynamics. 0° Kelvin is about -273.15 C°. At this temperature, the matter has no heat or vibration remaining in it and it only retains its quantum mechanical properties.