Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Quantum computers can sift through all the possible values of multivariable problems to find the optimal solution in a single machine cycle. The downside is that the values with which they work—qubits, which use superposition to represent both a 1 and a 0 simultaneously—are extremely prone to errors in multistep calculations. But an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which has demonstrated an error suppression technique that it says makes multistep quantum calculations commercially feasible.
BOTTOM LINE: Quantum computers could revolutionize calculations by performing feats in parallel that would take years for a serial computer to perform. Unfortunately, they are also very temperamental due to their error prone nature. If NIST's error prevention technique works, then commercial quantum computers could be on the horizon, but don't hold your breath, because I predict it will be at least a decade before they are commonplace.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 3:59 PM