A Shortcut Through Time: The Path to the Quantum Computer by George Johnson

By George Johnson

During this remarkably illustrative and carefully obtainable examine some of the most fascinating frontiers in technological know-how and desktops, award-winning long island instances author George Johnson unearths the interesting international of quantum computing—the holy grail of large pcs the place the computing energy of unmarried atoms is harnassed to create machines in a position to nearly incredible calculations within the blink of an eye.As laptop chips proceed to diminish in measurement, scientists expect the top of the line: a working laptop or computer within which each one change is produced from a unmarried atom. this kind of machine might function less than a distinct set of actual legislation: The legislation of quantum mechanics. Johnson lightly leads the curious outsider throughout the strangely basic principles had to comprehend this dream, discussing the present country of the revolution, and finally assessing the remarkable energy those machines can have to alter our international.

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Tin kertoy Log ic 31 With a modern P C we blithely double-click an icon on the desktop, summoning a flow of data from the disk drive-the pattern of bits that configures thousands of little switches to act as a word processor or a Web browser or an MP3 player-tem­ porary little structures, virtual machines. They are allowed to exist only as long as they are needed. Then they are wiped away and replaced with other structures, all built from l s and Os. It is hard to believe sometimes how well this all works.

It needed a way, using springs perhaps, or rubber bands, to keep spools from drifting into intermediate limbo. ) With binary magic, the digital recording of a song, indicated by the presence or absence of microscopic pits on a compact disc, can be read by the luminescent finger of a CD player's laser beam and then converted into an electrical signal-high voltage is l , low voltage is 0. And that data can be transformed by a computer and modem into the high and low squeals that carry digits through telephone wires, allowing the music to be "up­ loaded" onto another computer on the Internet, stored now as the presence or absence of magnetic specks on a disk drive.

All those possibilities have been experimentally ruled out. No matter how stringently one controls the variables, the perplexing effect remains: As far as can be determined, two photons traveling under identical conditions, fired one after the Playi ng with M i rrors 37 other, can hit the glass in the very same spot, and one will rico­ chet while the other one flies through (or both may ricochet or both may not) . It took physicists years to get used to what is now considered all but incontrovertible: Each photon makes the "decision" at random.

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