Minds, Machines And
The Quest For The Quantum Computer
last updated August 9th,
and is permanently morphing...
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Apart from a few promising prototypes, quantum computers don't really exist yet, but never mind that--the very thought of them is enough to give a geek goosebumps. Imagine it: a computer capable of processing data not just on your desktop but in a million parallel universes all at once. The concept sounds like science fiction, but the freaky laws of quantum physics make it a concrete possibility. And the implications--as science journalist Julian Brown makes plain in _Minds, Machines and the Multiverse: The Quest for the Quantum Computer_, a daunting yet consistently gripping look at quantum computation's high frontiers--are sweeping.
Computers powered by quantum weirdness, Brown tells us, could outperform existing machines to astronomical degrees, solving in minutes problems classical computers might take millennia to work through. But more to the point, the theoretical research that is making quantum computers plausible--led by gifted physicists like Rolf Landauer, David Deutsch, and the late Richard Feynman--has already opened up intriguing new ways of thinking about the world and about computation's place in it.
But Brown shows equal commitment to explaining
not only what makes quantum computers fascinating but what makes them work.
This is not, in other words, a book for those who blanch at the sight of
complex equations and circuit diagrams. Still, Brown's explanations, while
dense with information,
are unerringly lucid, and anyone who sticks with them to the end will come
away with exactly what this book promises: a penetrating understanding
of a mind-bending technology. --Julian Dibbell
Books about technological revolutions usually come after the fact. Not this one. Brown hails tomorrow's breakthrough--the quantum computer--likely to render existing computers obsolete. Though computer designers are still struggling to surmount the technical obstacles, the theorists of quantum computing have already envisioned astounding possibilities: light-speed computation, invincible cryptography, photon_teleportation, perhaps even artificial intelligence. To explain the remarkable promise of the quantum computer, Brown must take us out of the comfortable yes/no logic of classical computing into the strangely indeterminate probabilities of quantum logic. And then he pushes us yet further, past the quantum circuits and the Morphic Resonators into the unsettling hypothesis of a labyrinthine quantum multiverse of infinite parallel realities. Enough of a skeptic to pose the hard questions (What happens to the "me" in the other universes?), Brown nonetheless conveys the heady exhilaration of those pressing on the quantum frontiers. Bryce Christensen
The traditional and ubiquitous digital computer has changed the world by processing series of binary ones and zeroes...very fast. Like the sideshow juggler spinning plates on billiard cues, the classical computer moves fast enough to keep the plates from falling off. As computers become faster and faster, more and more plates are being added to more and more cues.
Imagine, then, a computer in which speed is increased not because it runs faster, but because it has a limitless army of different jugglers, one for each billiard cue. Imagine the quantum computer.
Julian Brown's record of
the quest for the Holy Grail of computing -- a computer that could, in
theory, take seconds to perform calculations that would take today's fastest
supercomputers longer than the age of the universe -- is an extraordinary
tale, populated by a remarkable cast of characters, including David Deutsch
of Oxford University, who first announced the possibility of computation
in the Alice-in-Wonderland world of quantum mechanics; Ed Fredkin, who
developed a new kind of logic gate as a true step toward universal computation;
and the legendary Richard Feynman, who reasoned from the inability to model
quantum mechanics on a classical computer the logical inevitability of
For, in the fuzzily indeterminate
world of the quantum, new computing power is born. _Minds, Machines, and
details the remarkable uses for quantum computing in code breaking, for
quantum computers will be able to crack many of the leading methods of
protecting secret information, while offering new unbreakable codes. Quantum
computers will also be able to model nuclear and subatomic reactions; offer
insights into nanotechnology,
teleportation, and time
travel; and perhaps change the way chemists and biotechnologists design
drugs and study the molecules of life. Farthest along the trail blazed
by these pioneers is the ability to visualize the multiple realities
of the quantum world not as a mathematical abstraction, but as a real map
to a world of multiple universes...a multiverse where every possible event
-- from a particular chess
move to a comet striking the Earth -- not only can happen, but does.Incorporating
lively explanations of ion trap gates, nuclear magnetic resonance
computers, quantum dots, quantum algorithms, Fourier transforms, and puzzles
of quantum physics, and illustrated with dozens of vivid diagrams, Minds,
Machines, and the Multiverse is a mind-stretching look at the still-unbuilt
but fascinating machines that, in the words of physicist Stanley Williams,
"will reshape the face of science" and offer a new window into the secrets
of an infinite number of potential universes.