Quantum Processor Hooks Up with Quantum Memory – Technology Review

Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, have become the first to combine a quantum processor with memory that can be used to store instructions and data. This achievement in quantum computing replicates a similar milestone in conventional computer design from the 1940s.

Although quantum computing is now mostly a research subject, it holds out the promise of computers far more capable than those we use today. The power of quantum computers comes from their version of the most basic unit of computing, the bit. In a conventional computer, a bit can represent either 1 or 0 at any time. Thanks to the quirks of quantum mechanics, the equivalent in a quantum computer, a qubit, can represent both values at once. When qubits in such a “superposition” state work together, they can operate on exponential3639a15bbc11323de686b4988fbbcf3dly more data than the same number of regular bits. As a result, quantum computers should be able to defeat encryption that is unbreakable in practice today and perform highly complex simulations.

Linking a processor and memory elements brings such applications closer, because it should make it more practical to control and program a quantum computer can perform, says Matteo Mariantoni, who led the project, which is part of a wider program at UCSB headed by John Martinis and Andrew Cleland.

The design the researchers adopted is known as the von Neumann architecture—named after John von Neumann, who pioneered the idea of making computers that combine processor and memory. Before the first von Neumann designs were built in the late 1940s, computers could be reprogrammed only by physically reconfiguring them. “Every single computer we use in our everyday lives is based on the von Neumann architecture, and we have created the quantum mechanical equivalent,” says Mariantoni.

The only quantum computing system available to buy—priced at $10 million—lacks memory and works like a pre-von Neumann computer.

via Quantum Processor Hooks Up with Quantum Memory – Technology Review.

This is absolutely HUGE. Sure, it’s only currently 2 qubits of RAM, and thus isn’t currently useful yet, but it provides a model for further growth of a product for which the sky is only a moderate obstacle, and limits are as of yet unperceived. Even Science Fiction has a ways to go with exploring the quantum computer phenomenon, mostly because the authors (like most people) simply can’t wrap their heads around how much POWER these things grant us.

The bad news? Kiss all of your strong encryption good-bye once these things get just a little more memory added to them. Not to say that we won’t have strong encryption in the future, but all of our current algorithms will be cut to ribbons by the advent of the quantum computer, and we don’t yet have anything that has been tested (hard to test when the quantum computer isn’t here yet) that will stand up to the power they hold. Basically, strong encryption is great, but if it being broken in 2015 is a problem for you, you probably should just not let it out at all.

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