Source: IBM

What does “quantum” mean?

Quantum theory is a revolutionary advancement in physics and chemistry that emerged in the early twentieth century. It is an elegant mathematical theory able to explain the counterintuitive behavior of subatomic particles, most notably the phenomenon of entanglement. In the late twentieth century it was discovered that quantum theory applies not only to atoms and molecules, but to bits and logic operations in a computer. This realization has been bringing about a revolution in the science and technology of information processing, making possible kinds of computing and communication hitherto unknown in the Information Age.

How do quantum computers differ from classical computers?

Classical computers encode information in bits. Each bit can take the value of 1 or 0. These 1s and 0s act as on/off switches that ultimately drive computer functions. Quantum computers, on the other hand, are based on qubits, which operate according to two key principles of quantum physics: superposition and entanglement. Superposition means that each qubit can represent both a 1 and a 0 at the same time. Entanglement means that qubits in a superposition can be correlated with each other; that is, the state of one (whether it is a 1 or a 0) can depend on the state of another. Using these two principles, qubits can act as more sophisticated switches, enabling quantum computers to function in ways that allow them to solve difficult problems that are intractable using today’s computers.

What does a quantum computer look like?

A quantum computer looks like nothing you have on your desk, or in your office, or in your pocket. It is housed in a large unit known as a dilution refrigerator and is supported by multiple racks of electronic pulse-generating equipment. However, you can access our quantum computer with very familiar personal computing devices, such as laptops, tablets and smartphones.

What is a qubit?

A qubit (pronounced “cue-bit” and short for quantum bit) is the physical carrier of quantum information. It is the quantum version of a bit, and its quantum state can take values of |0⟩, |1⟩, or both at once, which is a phenomenon known as superposition.

Learn more and experiment with quantum today