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Quantum computing will allow unique solutions to problems via quantum superposition -- the potential for a set of bits to exist in multiple states at once. Quantum algorithms could crack eventually crack even the best "unbreakable" current cryptography with ease.  (Source: UIUC Physics Department)

A Yale team has released the first quantum computer chip to be reported in peer-reviewed literature. The new chip uses aluminum atoms, silicon, and quantum interconnects. It has only 2 qubits. A Canadian company has also laid claim to the title of the world's first quantum processor, but its work has not been peer reviewed.  (Source: Blake Johnson/Yale University)
Does Yale have the world's first solid state quantum processor on their hands?

Quantum computing has the potential to easily crack current cryptography systems, simulate chemical and nanochemical quantum systems, and speed up the search for solutions of certain types of math problems called NP Complete problems.  Many have raced to create the world's first quantum processor.

In 2007 D-Wave, a Canadian firm, claimed to have created the world's first quantum computing chip.  Debate about whether the chip is a true quantum computer has raged, while the company has continued to release claims of improved "quantum chips" -- with the latest being a 128 qubit chip.  Researchers, though, are skeptical of these claims.

Now, researchers at Yale University claim that they have created the world's first solid state quantum processor.  The new chip, at the very least is the first processor to be officially reported in a peer-reviewed journal.  The research appears in the journal Nature's June 28 advanced publication listing.

The chip is composed of 2 qubits ("quantum bits").  Each qubit is composed of billions of aluminum atoms.  Qubits are different than traditional bits, in that while they can hold a value of one or zero, they can also hold a superposition of both states.  Essentially, this means that the two qubit chip can hold 4 simultaneous states, while a 2 bit chip could only hold 1 state (with four possibilities). 

Thus the use of qubits enables multiple tests with a single value.  For example if you had four phone numbers and one belonged to your friend a traditional processor would typically require a call to a couple of numbers before the correct one was found.  According to Yale Professor of Applied Physics and Physics Robert Schoelkopf, "Instead of having to place a phone call to one number, then another number, you use quantum mechanics to speed up the process.  It's like being able to place one phone call that simultaneously tests all four numbers, but only goes through to the right one."

The researchers used the new chip to run elementary algorithms, such as a simple search, based on this concept.  States Professor Schoelkopf, "Our processor can perform only a few very simple quantum tasks, which have been demonstrated before with single nuclei, atoms and photons.  But this is the first time they've been possible in an all-electronic device that looks and feels much more like a regular microprocessor."

The qubit processor communicates via a "quantum bus" which sends signals by photons.  The key breakthrough that allowed the creation of the chip, according to the team, was the ability to fix atoms in a specific quantum state for longer.  When qubits were first manipulated a decade ago, they would only last up to a nanosecond -- the Yale team got them to last for a microsecond, long enough for computing purposes.

The Yale researchers look forward to prolonging the states even further, to allow more complex algorithms. They also hope to add more qubits to their design.  The team writes that scientists are "far away" from a practical quantum computer, still, though.  And in laying claim to the world's "first" quantum computer chip, they're essentially throwing down the gauntlet with D-Wave, effectively accusing them of peddling snake oil to the corporate world.

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I don't understand this technology...
By Fox5 on 6/29/2009 1:10:27 PM , Rating: 1
Why would you want a computer to return multiple possible answers? Wouldn't indeterminacy make it nearly impossible to implement Boolean logic?

By amanojaku on 6/29/2009 1:22:44 PM , Rating: 3
Maybe, maybe not. The logic could be designed to support multiple answers, or provide a way to filter out what's incorrect. Remember that this is being done in hardware, so it's possible this will be abstracted from programmers. Anyway, some applications could benefit from having multiple answers returned, particularly if those answers are similar. Think video applications like color or compression codecs or fundamental particle simulations.

By Mitch101 on 6/29/2009 1:48:15 PM , Rating: 5
Thus the Fembot is born. ;)

RE: I don't understand this technology...
By psychah on 6/29/2009 2:01:07 PM , Rating: 5
I'll have a go at explaining it without dumbing it down. See if it makes any sense :S

It won't return multiple answers. It will test multiple possibilities at the same time, but only return one. From our macroscopic view it would seem that the quantum processor "already knew" which answer was correct before the test.

This is due to superposition in quantum mechanics. Schrödinger's cat is both dead and alive before you check, but after you check the cat is either dead or alive. You check which is true by opening the box, ie a single action, but in the quantum world possibilities don't have to be mutually exclusive in order to rule out all but one (the wave-function collapses, in quantum-lingo).

As a practical example, it seems plants use a form of biological quantum computer for energy transfer within the chloroplast. Here the computation solves the problem "which is the most efficient route", and the side-effect of that computation performs the transfer of energy, but this happens all at once. They aren't separate operations.

By Smartless on 6/29/2009 2:46:59 PM , Rating: 3
Though you were courteous I still felt like you were Sheldon from Big Bang Theory.

By Yaron on 6/29/2009 5:53:42 PM , Rating: 3
Fascinating explanation psychah. Thanks.

You know, it brings me to the old saying "Think positive". By utilizing the plant example you gave, a good thing happens from the mere positive thought you have...

*Thinking positive about a billion US$ in my bank account*

By Motoman on 6/29/2009 8:48:57 PM , Rating: 3
Schrödinger's cat is both dead and alive before you check, but after you check the cat is either dead or alive.

...unless it's an undead vampire kitty. Which naturally follows every "meow" with a "bleh" and wears a little cape and flies. So there are 3 possibilities.

By superPC on 6/29/2009 9:48:30 PM , Rating: 2
Fascinating Mr Spock

Consequences for encryption
By chartguy on 6/29/2009 1:47:52 PM , Rating: 2
Essentially, quantum computers are supposed to be very good at examining large numbers of possible answers, looking for one that works.

If they work, they will crack public-key encryption very easily. PKE works because it's very difficult to find large primes, and the specific non-public, large prime used. If quantum computers work as advertised, encryption will become very difficult, if not impossible, certainly PKE will be rendered useless.

RE: Consequences for encryption
By icanhascpu on 6/29/2009 5:52:26 PM , Rating: 1
Yes, and 1.44 Floppy is worthless to store HD movies on too.

My point is, one technology (that is that important) will not just stand still, so its silly to compare them.

RE: Consequences for encryption
By rvd2008 on 6/29/2009 5:55:51 PM , Rating: 3
Quantum computers, when ready, will bring us quantum encryption. If I remember correctly from quantum mechanics, you can not observe a particular state without disturbing the state itself. Quantum encryption is unbreakable AFAIK.

RE: Consequences for encryption
By MrPoletski on 6/30/2009 4:09:50 AM , Rating: 3
Quantum encryption is unbreakable AFAIK.

Then how does the message recipient read the message?

No encryption is unbreakable.

By foolsgambit11 on 6/30/2009 5:47:50 AM , Rating: 5
One-time pads are unbreakable, when created truly randomly, used correctly - i.e., one time - and when the pad is kept secure.

We have to make the distinction between breaking an encryption only by receiving the encoded message, by intercepting the cypher key, by gaining access to the message before it is encoded or after it is decoded, or any other method. Although all of these methods may allow a third party access to the data, I'd only call the first truly 'breaking' the encryption. (Is it really breaking the encryption if you know the key before you start?) The rest are breaking other portions of the security protocol.

Quantum cryptography, as currently envisioned, isn't encryption so much as it is a very secure method of agreeing on and transmitting a one-time pad key for use in encryption. It can theoretically ensure that a suitable one-time pad is delivered without being intercepted to any degree of certainty short of unity desired - true, that isn't completely unbreakable, but it's close enough to certain to keep people from trying. Unfortunately, in practice, since you can't perfectly transmit quantum states without some degradation, photon emitters sometimes emit more than one photon at a time, &c, there are some potential avenues for approach in the error-checking process. Plus, you could always be subjected to a denial-of-service style attack, with somebody constantly snooping just to ensure you can never agree on a key, or just cutting the lines. But none of that is really breaking the encryption.

So, I guess what I'm saying is that there is such a thing as unbreakable encryption, but there isn't such a thing as perfectly safe encryption. You just have to try means other than cracking the encryption. Maybe that's splitting hairs, though.

By foolsgambit11 on 6/30/2009 5:17:07 AM , Rating: 2
As far as you and anybody else knows. The laws of physics as we understand them at the moment make it possible to create an 'unbreakable' cypher by creating a one-time pad style cypher key as long as the message. Unlike traditional one-time pads which require a secure method of delivering the cypher key to the recipient, quantum mechanics allows a key to be agreed on securely by both sender and receiver, while also ensuring nobody can eavesdrop. And this has already been demonstrated at distances of nearly 100 miles over fiber optic line.

'Unbreakable' is in quotes, because there is some information that is possible to be gleaned from the data exchange using current methodology. It is almost certainly not enough to crack most cyphers, but you never know.

Check out the Wikipedia article:

By Mojo the Monkey on 6/29/2009 1:25:50 PM , Rating: 3
Thank god, because I was tired of going in order on my cell phone contact list until I got the person I wanted to call in the first place. So how long before this is in my cell phone? Thank you quantum computing! /s/

RE: Finally!
By gcouriel on 6/29/2009 1:56:56 PM , Rating: 2
Steve Jobs is diligently working on getting one into the next iPhone.

RE: Finally!
By 67STANG on 6/29/2009 2:20:00 PM , Rating: 2
He would have to make sure the processor would could run at 250 degrees before putting it into the 3GS.

RE: Finally!
By Motoman on 6/29/2009 8:50:00 PM , Rating: 3
They'll get that in there after they figure out new, groundbreaking features like "sort alphabetically."

"You're using coconuts!"
By SnakeBlitzken on 6/29/2009 4:26:35 PM , Rating: 2
"In 2007 D-Wave, a Canadian firm, claimed to have created the world's first quantum computing chip. Debate about whether the chip is a true quantum computer has raged, while the company has continued to release claims of improved "quantum chips" -- with the latest being a 128 qubit chip. Researchers, though, are skeptical of these claims."

So... we're trying to invent quantum computing but we're not sure we know it when we see it? "Who are you who are so wise in the ways of science?"

RE: "You're using coconuts!"
By Spinne on 6/29/2009 5:17:16 PM , Rating: 2
No, it's a matter of what the company is putting out to substantiate the claim - essential nothing other than BS loaded white papers.

RE: "You're using coconuts!"
By dawza on 6/30/2009 12:22:28 AM , Rating: 2
Comparing a peer-reviewed finding to one that is not is like comparing Megan Fox to Rosie O'Donnell. The fact that the peer-reviewed journal is one of the premier, first-tier publications for scientific research is just more sand in the face of the Canadian firm.

RE: "You're using coconuts!"
By foolsgambit11 on 6/30/2009 6:06:27 AM , Rating: 2
Or even like comparing a witch to a piece of wood?

Very nice
By dondino on 6/29/2009 12:45:42 PM , Rating: 2
This is very exciting technology and glad to see progress is being made. The physical constraints of the exiting manufacturing process HAS to hit a wall eventually. Stuffing additional cores into a cpu is only a bandaid.

Sadly, I don't think I'll see this technology mainstream in my lifetime. :(

RE: Very nice
By Flunk on 6/29/2009 1:02:14 PM , Rating: 3
With the current pace of technological progress I give it 20 years. Although I have been accused of being optimistic.

RE: Very nice
By MrPoletski on 6/30/2009 4:11:38 AM , Rating: 2
Well I'd agree with you and I'm as pessimistic as they come.

By KristopherKubicki on 6/29/2009 1:19:23 PM , Rating: 5
I wish I could give a 6 to that comic image :(

Promising dead end?
By spkay on 6/29/2009 1:53:18 PM , Rating: 5
I find this research incredibly promising and a virtual dead end at the same time ;-)

By Randomblame on 6/30/2009 11:51:13 AM , Rating: 2
a quantum computer will never replace a binary computer for our day to day tasks. We might one day have them as add in cards for cryptography and specialized functions but somehow I doubt it will be anytime soon. The government would appreciate it if all of their top secret codes were not broken for now.

Anyways a whole microsecond eh? I gotta remember to spring for the 5 minute warranty.

By bill3 on 7/1/2009 7:34:33 PM , Rating: 2
You're admitting the COUNTLESS other breathless quantum computer articles you put up were all based on fake computers, Mick? Interesting. Those articles certainly didn't divulge that they were all articles about fake computers.

Well, it's a first step in your road to recovery, I suppose, lol.

I expect in ten years, to be reading another article about the "first real" quantum computer as well..

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