Looking at information with a fresh perspective
Amana Liaqat Nottingham 18.03.19
Current Affairs Society, University of Nottingham
The words ‘Quantum Technology’ may remind, most of us, of incredibly fast computers or futuristic teleportation devices. However, it is a misapprehension to think of it as a remote possibility in the distant future. Even today, a technology that uses a lot of quantum physics, is all around us. Quantum physics, which is used to explain the strange behaviour of particles at a very small scale, is an essential part of any modern-day tech gadget. We needed quantum physics to figure out how to scale down the size of mobile phones i.e. quantum mechanics is needed to explain the activity of the transistors and the flow of current at that scale.
Meanwhile, an increase in experimental research carried out on subatomic particle has made their bizarre and counterintuitive behaviour become an indisputable fact. In a classical transfer of information, the ones that we are familiar with, every particle has a single definitive value whether you look at it or not. However, in a quantum scenario, particles follow a ‘superposition principle’, which is to say that they do not have a single value that will definitely be returned every time you look at it. Instead, measuring the value of a quantum particle is a bit like flipping a coin, it could end up being either heads or tails and there is no way of knowing beforehand which will it be. It is this quirk of the quantum particles that has made it possible to look at information with a fresh perspective.
Unbounded by classical physics, quantum technologies are able to use and process information at a level that is unprecedented and remarkable. A quantum computer might be the most significant leap that is taken, where calculations are made using the ‘fuzzier’ quantum bits (qubits) instead of classical bits. Besides the quantum computer, there are also many other interesting applications for quantum mechanics for e.g. a quantum simulator is a device used to study and solve physics problems using a quantum system to simulate the conditions.
The UK government is investing £270 million through the UK Quantum Technologies Programme, with the objective of research and making breakthrough developments in this field. The impact of this investment gives the UK a running start in this emerging field, and in the technology sector in general.
The growth and capacity of quantum technologies can best be demonstrated by citing ‘Shor’s Algorithm’, this algorithm uses quantum computation to break any integer number into a product of prime numbers. As harmless as that may seem, doing this computation classically for large numbers would take billions of years. And it is this infeasibility of classically solving the problem that is responsible for the security of our online transactions. If a quantum computer of adequate potential is built, online security encryptions will fail. On the brighter side, there is also development in alternative means of secure information transfer. Last year, China successfully teleported a ‘particle’ from the ground to a satellite in space. And, teleportation is a transfer of information that is physically impossible to eavesdrop on.
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