The breakthrough has to do with the way computers manipulate information. The smallest unit of information read by a conventional computer is a binary digit, or a bit. These bits are binary, meaning they signal either 1 or 0. Even such simple markers, when enough are strung together, can give computers incredibly complex directions.
But quantum computers use quantum digits, or qubits. Just as quantum physics has theorized that some subatomic particles are both present and not present at the same time, these qubits can be both 1 and 0 simultaneously. It can mean the difference between instructing a computer to give one answer 10,000 times, or writing one set of instructions to provide 10,000 answers.
Last month, the House science committee unanimously advanced a bill that would instruct the administration to create 10 federal research centers aimed at speeding up development of quantum computers and related technology. The bill was shepherded by two Texans who lead the panel: chairman Lamar Smith of San Antonio and ranking member Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas. The Senate is working on a similar bill.
We’re delighted that Congress and the White House are prioritizing this work, especially given reports that China and other nations are already ahead in their own quest to bring quantum from theory to widespread use.
It’s far too soon to know where those 10 research centers will be, but we’re pleased to discover that some of the most advanced work in the nation is already being done at Texas universities — including right here in Dallas. At Southern Methodist University, professor Mitch Thornton leads a team already developing ways of writing software for IBM’s experimental quantum computer, one of a handful of such machines in existence.
It’s not often the White House and both parties in Congress can come together on a national priority. But that’s precisely what it takes for big wins in Washington. And this one could have positive impacts for generations.
Want to learn more about quantum computing?
The first lecture this fall in the [email protected] series put on by the Lyle School of Engineering at SMU is Sept. 5, and the topic will be the school’s research into quantum computing, presented by professor Mitch Thornton. Breakfast is included, and the brief program begins at 7:30 a.m. in Caruth Hall in the Lyle School. No registration required.
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