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Tiny Holes Advance Quantum Computing

CmdrTaco posted more than 9 years ago | from the nothing-is-something dept.

Science 255

Nick writes "Worldwide, scientists are racing to develop computers that exploit the quantum mechanical properties of atoms - quantum computers. One strategy for making them involves packaging individual atoms on a chip so that laser beams can read quantum data. Scientists at Ohio State University have taken a step toward the development of quantum computers by making tiny holes that contain nothing at all. The holes - dark spots in an egg carton-shaped surface of laser light - could one day cradle atoms for quantum computing."

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first post! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12347085)

yo!

Re:first post! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12347096)

wOOt!

whoa (-1, Redundant)

TedCheshireAcad (311748) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347092)

Could you imagine a Beowulf cluster of those?

Re:whoa (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12347112)

yeah and Ballmer's doin the developers dance around it!

-------

Two kernel hackers have a fight, one gets pissed off and yells at the other:

Oh go shove it up your address!!

first post (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12347094)

first post:D

Great principle (5, Funny)

treff89 (874098) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347097)

Quantum computing is quite simply where we turn after existing silicon is exhausted. Once the basics about the random nature of quantum particles, which is extremely interesting, the meaning of computer and mechanics thereof can be redefined.

Re:Great principle (1)

giginger (825703) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347114)

I, for one, am looking forward to it. Could mean so much is possible that isn't possible now. Or at least isn't worth trying because of the power.

Re:Great principle (2, Funny)

NetCow (117556) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347122)

after existing silicon is exhausted
Good one.

Re:Great principle (1)

madaxe42 (690151) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347711)

Think it might be a while before we deplete the universe of Si.... could this hold up quantum computing?

Re:Great principle (3, Insightful)

koreaman (835838) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347125)

Not necessarily. We still have a long way to go before we have useful quantum computers, and they're not an improvement over silicon for everything. We may well have diamond computers or something else fundamentally similar to silicon computers before we make the leap to quantum.

Re:Great principle (3, Funny)

the31337z3r0 (826547) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347167)

Heh. Leap to Quantum. Don't EVER reference that show again.

Re:Great principle (1, Funny)

koreaman (835838) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347214)

Er, I didn't even know it was a show. Did it suck really badly? If so, I am truly sorry, and give you my express written consent to beat me over the head with a rubber chicken.

Re:Great principle (5, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347300)

Quantum Leap [imdb.com] was an excellent TV show that ran through the late 80's and early 90's. The premise was that "Dr. Sam Becket" (who now plays Captain Archer on Enterprise) invented a time machine that would allow him to reach points throughout his lifetime. The problem is that he never quite got the kinks worked out of his retrieval program, and now finds himself randomly leaping from life to life. The tagline of the show was, "striving to put right what once went wrong and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home." (Usually then followed by us seeing him leaping into someone's life. Something utterly confusing then happens to him and he utters the words, "Oh boy".)

And now you know... the rest of the story.

Re:Great principle (1)

koreaman (835838) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347400)

Thanks for the info!
Mod parent up.

Re:Great principle (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347439)

/me takes a bow

Bonus points to anyone who can identify my ending line. :-)

Re:Great principle (3, Informative)

SysSupport (872059) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347509)

Paul Harvey, g'Day.

Re:Great principle (1, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347610)

Whoa. A Slashdotter who actually knows who Paul Harvey is? What's this world coming to? ;-)

Re:Great principle (5, Informative)

Urkki (668283) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347177)

  • they're not an improvement over silicon for everything.

Indeed, talking about quantum computers as an improvment on silicon computers is like talking about jumbo jets as an improvement over cars. Ie not an improvment at all, unless you have something very specific to do (factor a large integer or cross an ocean). And you need the simpler alternative to use the more advanced one (car to get to the airport, regular computer to feed and extract data for quantum computing).

Re:Great principle (3, Interesting)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347226)

Well, this seems to be more of a "quantum storage" artical anyways... since you would read data off the stored atoms. Something like that would benifit just about everything. Who doesn't need more storage for their movies?

Re:Great principle (5, Interesting)

stevok (818024) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347358)

Not exactly. Quantum computers can simulate classical computers with no problems. That's one of the tenets of quantum computation. I would love to see a 747 parallel park in Manhattan. Also, the fact that quantum computers can factor large integers efficiently necessarily implies that they can do other NP-complete problems efficiently, such as the traveling salesman problem. If we can ever get more than seven qubits to behave, we'll be amazed by the things quantum computers can do. But, alas, scientists have only implemented Shor's Algorithm for factoring integers on one number. 15. And hot damn, they got the factors right, 3 and 5. Yes, IAWAUGTOQC (I am writing an undergrad thesis on quantum computation).

Re:Great principle (3, Interesting)

Urkki (668283) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347595)

  • Quantum computers can simulate classical computers with no problems

So, what kind of scale are we talking about here? To simulate, say, a million-transistor CPU and a megabyte of RAM, how many qubits would you need? About as many as you need transistors, or radically less?

If the answer is millions, then I think my comparison to a jumbo jet is valid, as we're probably about as far from a quantum computer simulating even a 4004 with hundreds of bytes of RAM, than we're from ubiquitous flying cars replacing jumbos ;-)

Re:Great principle (4, Interesting)

stevok (818024) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347653)

Like the article said, the issue isn't processor speed, it's algorithm time as a function of input size, i.e. logN. Factoring integers takes an exponential amount of time on classical computers. The best known classical algorithm (called GNFS) is O(exp((logN)^{1/3}(loglogN)^{2/3})), whereas Shor's algorithm can factor N in O((logN)^3) time. But, Shor takes roughly 2^N qubits to factor N. So, if we're talking about factoring a 200 digit RSA number, that's a whole crapload of qubits to control. Many orders of magnitude more than we can control now. In short, you're absolutely right about quantum computers being completely impractical until there are some huge breakthroughs in engineering and physics. This is why I love being a math major. We don't have to worry about silly things like actually building a quantum computer. We just sit around and daydream about how a quantum computer would work, then when we've got it all figured out, we blame the physicists and engineers for not building one.

Re:Great principle (2, Insightful)

treff89 (874098) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347139)

That's supposed to be, once we understand the basics.. From what I remember of a lecture, the real issue is actually being able to control the particle itself, but once controllable, the powers are immense.. for example, it would be possible to tell if an email has been read by "simply" observing the state of the quantum particles. Extremely advanced stuff but hugely powerful for the distant future,.

Re:Great principle (1)

shotgunefx (239460) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347332)

I don't get that. Wouldn't you observing the qbits change it?

Re:Great principle (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347469)

I need to brush up on my QC theory, but if I remember correctly, quantum computers exploit "spooky action at a distance" (aka Quantum Entanglement). This allows one set of particles to perform the real calculations, while another set of particles is observed.

Re:Great principle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12347423)

Nah. Quantum computing is still at least 20 years away. We're still figuring out how it works, how to manufacture it, and what sort of calculations we can perform on it. And speaking of that, there are only a few things we can calculate at the moment.

The next step after classical computer in my opinion would be photonic computer. That will be the workhorse computer that will be on everyone's desks. Not quantum computers.

Re:Great principle (3, Funny)

zwilliams07 (840650) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347514)

the random nature of quantum particles
*enters 1 + 1 into the built-in calculator*
*gets 2,124,972, 421 as an answer*
*enters 1 + 1 again*
*gets 0.0012 as an answer*

Bright future for computing (0, Redundant)

MeanQuestion (878758) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347104)

Looks like it will be a long, long time before computers hardware peaks.

Just in time for Lonhorn!!! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12347106)

Will it run Longhorn?

Re:Just in time for Lonhorn!!! (4, Funny)

ZeroExistenZ (721849) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347201)

If you get a quantum 3D-accelerated graphicscard.

Re:Just in time for Lonhorn!!! (3, Funny)

NinjaFarmer (833539) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347413)

So it will run Duke Nukem Forever then?

is that because of (1)

Prince Vegeta SSJ4 (718736) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347519)

the Quantum Leap [scifi.com] in eyecandy bloat?

Re:Just in time for Lonhorn!!! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12347330)

Probably or probably not. 50/50 either way.

Re:Just in time for Lonhorn!!! (1)

kpwoodr (306527) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347391)

yes, but when it "freezes up" all particle motion will cease [wikipedia.org] and your processor will collapse on itself, and take your computer and your license agreement with it. Didn't you read the EULA!

Baby Steps (1)

nametaken (610866) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347113)


I realize all new technology comes in baby steps, but its somehow disappointing to hear that they "have taken a step toward the development of quantum computers" by making one little piece.

With all the talk of quantum computers on /., one would have thought they were so much closer. :(

I am Ready (1)

MrAsstastic (851637) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347142)

Leave behind the fiction...enter fantasy where no rules exist only pan-dimensional string theory quantum physics or mathematics or mechanics that allow alternate realities to exist in harmonizing sound wave patterns or energy fields in plasma energy rooms. Technology to harness the power of stars to race in the universe on a universal scale to leave the planet and this reality. To cross or otherwise render useless this Consciousness Grid. I am ready for quantum computing.

Re:I am Ready (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347316)

Don't panic! I'll go get my towel.

Re:I am Ready (1)

CoffeeJedi (90936) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347643)

some information you may be interested in:
Time Cube [timecube.com]

(sorry, had to do it!)

Definitions? (5, Funny)

Rinzai (694786) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347147)

"...making tiny holes that contain nothing at all."

Well, yes, that rather is the definition of "hole," isn't it? Having nothing in them is what distinguishes them from the rest of the surroundings.

Real source of technology (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12347219)

What they didnt tell you is that the discovery of the holes stems from research into quantum alcohol fast-queuing, aka the first atomic beer-bong.

Oh come on, it is *ohio state*

Re:Real source of technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12347248)

That sounds like Serious [imdb.com] research.

Re:Definitions? (2, Insightful)

AviLazar (741826) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347240)

I have a hole, I place a golf ball in it - I still have a hole. It just happens to have a golf ball. The difference is one is an empty hole, the other is not.

Re:Definitions? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12347290)

So .. how big a golf course do I need to run Linux? (Perhaps using a Golf Touring Machine?)

Re:Definitions? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12347492)

Your hole probably isn't really empty if it can hold a golf ball. It probably contains air.

Re:Definitions? (0)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347623)

I have a hole, I place a golf ball in it

I don't wanna know what you do in the privacy of your own home.
Please make sure images do not leak out onto the web.

Re:Definitions? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12347664)

Good lord that post made me think of goatse.

No, there could be tiny gophers (1)

MichaelPenne (605299) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347736)

in there!

Then they would be tiny holes that contain gohphers, you see?

Fore!

Wow (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12347153)

Scientists at Ohio State University have taken a step toward the development of quantum computers by making tiny holes that contain nothing at all.

Now I know people often criticise Slashdot for having summaries that contain obscure terms without explaining them, but I think it's going a little overboard to explain what a hole is :)

Re:Wow (3, Interesting)

Vo0k (760020) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347202)

Actually, most of holes on Earth are full on air. Even void isn't quite empty. If you have a couple of atoms forming a particle, the space between them isn't quite empty either - they partially overlap, the uncertainity principle says they "partially are" there. The idea is about making small holes with REAL void - no particles, no photons, no "with a little probability, there" electrons, just total null. Not quite easy. I, for one, can't quite imagine how are they going to stop neutrinos from entering that space...

Re:Wow (1)

goranb (209371) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347376)

I, for one, can't quite imagine how are they going to stop neutrinos from entering that space

If that's all you can't imagine, you're way ahead of me... :)

Re:Wow (4, Funny)

Strange Ranger (454494) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347422)

I, for one, can't quite imagine how are they going to stop neutrinos from entering that space...

Simple. They'll just repolarize the quantum invariance field and then bombard it with a tachyon pulse. This creates a standing wave of Heisenberg Flux, which is the only way to be certain the hole is empty.

Re:Wow (0)

zero_offset (200586) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347637)

The best part of that joke is the "Insightful" moderation...

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12347646)

Haha, I just love it when these pranksters get modded as 'insightful'.

Re:Wow (1)

madaxe42 (690151) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347750)

Ah, yes, you're right, I understand entirely. Thankyou. Just bear with me while I go re-arrange the universe to correspond with what you just said.

Re:Wow (1)

wgaryhas (872268) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347769)

When did you graduate from Starfleet Acadamy?

Re:Wow (1)

Log from Blammo (777614) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347682)

First, they will institute a massive neutrino literacy program. Then, they will post tiny signs reading "Restricted Area. No Unauthorized Leptons."

Re:Wow (1)

Deanalator (806515) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347710)

I, for one, can't quite imagine how are they going to stop neutrinos from entering that space...

First off, photons need to be able to get in or there really is no point :-) Also with quantum computing, decoherence and stray particles really arent as much of a problem as they seem.

Sure, in classical computing, one strange bit flip or whatever will mess up your entire data set. Quantum computers really are for single shot calculations though. If you build a quantum computer that is going to factor a large number, but it only works a millionth of the time, it really isnt a problem to just run it a million times. You still get the answer far faster than you would on a classical computer.

So the data... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12347157)

...will be read by sharks with friggin lasers on their heads?

Mind Boggling (5, Funny)

CleverNickedName (644160) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347180)

Scientists ... making tiny holes that contain nothing at all.

So these boffins have developed "nothing", but one day, in the far future, this nothing could be filled with something important.
Wow. What an age we live in.

obligatory Simpsons quote: (5, Funny)

TheAxeMaster (762000) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347181)


They're speed holes, they make the computer go faster....

Re:obligatory Simpsons quote: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12347213)

Funny that you would say that. We used to say the same thing about the holes on the front of the PowerMac G4 (last rev). They had 4 big holes on the front to let in air. Of course a client would say something about them and we would call then speed holes. I think only one person got the reference.

Best part of quantum computing (2, Funny)

bigtallmofo (695287) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347187)

The thing I'm really looking forward to on Slashdot 2015 are all the posts:

"Why would anyone need that much power? I remember 9 years ago when we only had 10 qubits [wikipedia.org] to work with! Quantum programmers sure are spoiled and lazy today."

Re:Best part of quantum computing (1)

TerminaMorte (729622) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347483)

In all fairness, you'll probally need that in order for KDE/Gnome to be usable.

Zing!

Re:Best part of quantum computing (0)

sharkey (16670) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347572)

I remember 9 years ago when we only had 10 qubits to work with!

That's inflation for you. Back in Noah's day, 300 cubits by 50 cubits by 30 cubits was doable.

Excellent Ideas Fellas (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12347195)

...but wait this doesn't involve football so the funding will dry up shortly.

How many were there? (2, Funny)

sharkey (16670) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347203)

And how many would it take to fill the Albert Hall?

Re:How many were there? (3, Funny)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347257)

And how many would it take to fill the Albert Hall?

Four thousand.

I was never quite clear on how the holes from Blackburn, Lancs. could possibly fill the Albert Hall. I mean, they're holes - defined as being something not there. How can they fill anything?

Then I discovered marijuana, and understood :-)

making tiny holes that contain nothing at all (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12347224)

Air Supply surrenders.

Magic Red Smoke (3, Funny)

Analogy Man (601298) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347225)

Everyone knows current computers and consumer electronics work using magic blue smoke. If the smoke escapes your device no longer works. Overclockers are very clumsy about letting out the blue smoke and sell their processors (depleted of magic) on e-bay under dubious accounts.

Quantum computers will use red smoke (the Rubium cloud). Will we call the hobbiests that push the limits of these machines Quark shakers?

One step closer to my dream... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12347232)

... of mini-mini-golf. Now all I need is a microscopic golf club and an infinitesimal ball and I'm all set.

Finally, the game for couch potatoes! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12347597)

- The ball could be anywhere. You just determine the result by peeking in the hole.

- Unless you tell all your friends, did you really win?

- After the game, you can crack stupid jokes about getting your balls entangled.

Optical Lattice (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12347243)

It's just an optical lattice experiment of the kind which have been conducted for about 10 years. The claimed new twist is in using a single layer of atoms and not producing the lattice per se.

If Schroedinger is anything to go by. . . (2, Funny)

oneandoneis2 (777721) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347279)

. . . won't quantum computers mean an end to binary?

In the old days, a cat in a box was either alive or dead - one or zero, you might say. Nice and easy.

But when it gets quantum? How the hell is a simple machine going to cope when it asks "Is it one or zero?" and gets told "Both"

"We've had to replace 'if' and 'and' with 'maybe' and 'probably'. And 'not' has become obsolete."

Re:If Schroedinger is anything to go by. . . (2)

Hinhule (811436) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347354)

It would be both, until the computer asks "is it one or zero" then it returns one or zero. The return value would never be both.

Re:If Schroedinger is anything to go by. . . (5, Insightful)

x4A6D74 (614651) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347411)

The computer does not ask "is it one or zero" and get told "both."

Going back to the same metaphor you began to use, the principle that the Schroedinger's Cat Experiment is suppposed to illustrate is not the concept of superposition (that the cat is both alive and dead whilst in its quantum state in the box) but the concept of decoherence of the quantum state under observation.

It's currently a postulate of quantum mechanics (i.e. everyone observes this phenomenon but nobody can explain it) that observation of a quantum state in a superposition (say, a "qubit" -- perhaps an electron spinning up for 0 and down for 1) will have one of the two values, with certain probability. Once read, the state loses that superposition and remains in the observed state (Recall: in the SCE, the cat stays alive or dead once you open the box).

If you don't want to measure your qubits, and thus maintain their superpositions, entanglements, etc., that's fine ... of course, you can't get any information out of them. If you've properly designed your quantum machine, you may have a guess as to what the possible states are; you may even know the probability of each one.

As soon as you ask to see a qubit, however, it becomes a classical bit and stays one. That's the downside to all this quantum stuff.

Quantum computers also do not mean an end to binary -- currently, since humans have, and are trained to use, primarily classical faculties, quantum research is aimed at extending classical computation. So we typically discuss a "qubit" which may be 0, 1, or some combination thereof (specifically residing in the field C x C). But, if we ever want to interface a quantum computer with a classical instrument (for example, some sort of I/O device, or a classical computer, or a human) then we will unavoidably devolve back to binary.

For more information, I recommend Nielsen & Chuang's book on Quantum Computation and Quantum Information (I think; I don't have it in front of me right now).

Disclaimer: I am not a quantum mechanic. I am, however, an junior finishing up my degrees in mathematics and computer science so that I can go on in a year to work on a PhD in quantum computation. --0x4a6d74

Re:If Schroedinger is anything to go by. . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12347681)

Once read, the state loses that superposition and remains in the observed state

That's of course only true (up to a phase shift) if the operator that corresponds to the quantity you are observing commutes with the Hamiltonian.

Re:If Schroedinger is anything to go by. . . (4, Insightful)

ciroknight (601098) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347460)

A better explaination would be, "Is it a one or a zero?" "Depends on your perspective."

Quantum computing, as I understand it (IANAQCS/P) works off the principal of super position; the ability for a bit to represent multiple bits, simply by the spin of the electron, or some other random thing that I wouldn't know how to explain.

If you defined a zero as a square, and a one as a circle, then a quantum bit would be a cylinder; from one perspective you see the square, yet turn it on its side and you see its other property. But since you have other posibilities (cubes and spheres in this system), the "third dimension" persay has to be explicitly asked for by the requesting computer.

So it's able to perform a massive amount of calculations based on a little bit of data, and store it as one neat little package at the end (either the cube, the sphere, or the cylinder). When someone comes along to ask, "was the answer a zero or a one" then, the only way to answer is "depends on the perspective".

There are still steps to take before quantum... (0, Offtopic)

sdornan (879053) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347289)

I think diamonds will replace silicon before we manage to figure out how to bridge the quantum computing gap.

Diamonds have the highest conductivity rate of any known metal, which makes them perfect candidates for traditional computing. You may think "oh, but they're so expensive," but this isn't necessarily true. Natural diamonds are expensive, but this isn't due to its scarcity.

There are stockpiles of diamonds, but De Beers who controls 70% of the diamond industry wouldn't tell you that. They have found ways to keep these things in their hands and distribute them miserly, thus creating artifical rarity which raises the demand and price in one shot and leads to more profits.

The most important development, however, is the newfound possibility of manufacturing artificial diamonds. Ones with NO defects whatsoever. It's already possible, and it's been done. It's rather cheap as well.

Re:There are still steps to take before quantum... (3, Informative)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347625)

Diamonds have the highest conductivity rate of any known metal, which makes them perfect candidates for traditional computing. You may think "oh, but they're so expensive," but this isn't necessarily true. Natural diamonds are expensive, but this isn't due to its scarcity.

Diamonds are not a metal... and Diamonds have the highest thermal conductivity... the last thing you want here for semiconductor devices is a substrate with the highest electrical conductivity... you want a very good insulator, which also gets heat away very quickly... this is where Diamond layers come in... not solid machined diamonds, but diamond deposited or grown into a thin layer...

interesting idea (1)

kae_verens (523642) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347291)

If I understand this correctly, this would be similar to holding an array of marbles in the square "holes" in a tennis racket. I wonder if the laser lattice affects the atoms in any way other than keeping them in one position? Is there a danger of the lasers changing the atom in a way that renders the qubit useless?

About atoms in computers (1)

notherenow (860367) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347303)

I'm not 100% sure, but I think the atoms vibration will have to come into play at some point. This would mean that there will be a "hot" and a "cold" involved. That means movement of atoms [colorado.edu] are going to be very, very important. I'm interested in knowing how it will happen.

holes that contain nothing?! (0)

munkt0n (533722) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347308)

what will they think of next?

tiny chips, tiny problems (0)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347355)

The problem with nano-technology like this is that if you encounter a problem with this 'atom-chip,' it will be difficult to figure out what exactly caused it due to its tiny size. Does anybody really know exactly how atoms and sub-atomic particles are going to behave in less-than perfect environments? What about gamma-ray bursts from stars and nuclear emissions from our Sun? Will these possibly have an adverse effect on a chip that is running on the atomic level? How about our Scientists rescue the Hubble Telescope first, something we know works, then worry about the quantum chip later.

Re:tiny chips, tiny problems (2, Informative)

karvind (833059) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347553)

Does anybody really know exactly how atoms and sub-atomic particles are going to behave in less-than perfect environments? What about gamma-ray bursts from stars and nuclear emissions from our Sun? Will these possibly have an adverse effect on a chip that is running on the atomic level?

One of the key to making things at nanoscale is to have fault and defect tolerance. With billions of elements in the system, you are bound to get manufacturing defects as well as many run-time defects. Even in modern DRAMs they have redundant columns of memory cells to improve the yield by swapping the defective ones with spare ones. FPGA(Field Programmable Gate Arrays) offer in-circuit reconfigurability. HP showed Teremac [hp.com] few years ago which had millions of defects yet it worked just "fine" by detecting the defects and reconfiguring around it.

In short there will be sources of errors and faults in these systems, but there are various ways to get around it. Also in quantum computing, you can encode your data in such a way that it is immune to noise (atleast to certain extent) and is called Quantum error correction [qubit.org] .

But also remember that science is not just about destination but also the journey. Even if practical quantum computers are never built, we are likely to learn many interesting aspects which may be used elsewhere.

Qubit meet Q*bert (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347665)

From the Qubit article you linked to:
"During the correction procedure, the entanglement between the system and its environment is transferred to an entanglement between the measuring apparatus and the environment. The qubit is actively isolated from its environment by means of this carefully controlled entanglement transfer."
It continues....
"The main proviso to all the above is that the correction process can itself be carried out without errors. This is clearly a huge assumption. It is probably reasonable in the context of quantum communication [7,8], since there one eventually wishes to measure the communicated qubits, and the bulk of the error correction can be carried out on the classical information obtained after the qubits are measured. The context of quantum computing is another matter, however, and it remains to be seen whether quantum error correction can be made sufficiently robust against noise during the correction process itself. Thus quantum theory may still rule out the possibility of a powerful quantum computer."
The error correction process for the Qubit must not have errors itself - there inlies the main problem. I am all for quantum chips and the benefits they may reap, I just hope they aren't used to develop more powerful weapons of mass destruction. If the quantum chip is developed fully, I can see it being used for Holographic-3D projection of images. Also for artificially intelligent robots that can be sent into hostile environments such as Mars or Titan and provide quick and accurate feedback on their observations and experiments.

Re:tiny chips, tiny problems (4, Insightful)

aziraphale (96251) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347613)

"How about our Scientists rescue the Hubble Telescope first, something we know works, then worry about the quantum chip later."

No, but first, our scientists have to clean their teeth, then our scientists will be asleep for the next eight hours. Once our scientists have got up in the morning, they'll have a bowl of cheerios and then read the paper for a bit. Then maybe they can tackle the Hubble telescope problem (although the fact that all n million of them are trying to write on the blackboard at the same time does mean they won't make much progress. And the biologists have to sit around twiddling their thumbs because there's not much they can do to help). After Hubble, there's some promising work on cancer they need to finish up, before they can get on with a bit of geology.

Hopefully, someday soon, our scientists will realise that they can get much more done if they allow small groups of themselves to concentrate on different things, so they can make progress in different fields at the same time. In the mean time, though, you're right. They're all wasting their time on this pointless quantum computing nonsense.

How to get a girlfriend (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12347360)

What a great scientific tactic. We could all follow the example: let's trade in our bunk for a big empty bed to cuddle in with a future girlfriend. They love cuddling.

It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. So it's guaranteed to work.

Someone please clarify (2, Interesting)

karvind (833059) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347449)

From the article: "We're pretty sure we can trap atoms -- the first step towards making a quantum memory chip," Lafyatis said. A working computer based on the design is many years away, though, he cautioned. In fact, Christandl suspects that they are at least two years away from being able to isolate one atom per trap -- the physical arrangement required for a true quantum memory device.

1. What is the working principle behind this (mechanism of trapping) ?

2. Are these experiments performed at room temperature ?

3. How do they ensure they have trapped one "desired" atom and not more atoms and not some other impurity?

4. How is the laser prevented from interfering with lattice (non-desirable interactions) ?

5. What is the decoherence [wikipedia.org] time which governs if you can really do any computation before the result is lost ?

This is indeed an important step forward. But alas the student is graduating in august and I hope there is someone to followup on this work:

Theoretically, if they release the atoms above the chip in just the right way, the atoms will fall into the traps. They hope to be able to perform that final test before Christandl graduates in August.

In related news... (2, Funny)

Etherwalk (681268) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347461)

> Scientists at Ohio State University have taken a step toward the development of quantum computers by making tiny holes that contain nothing at all

In related news, Ohio State University has recieved research funding from the NSA to perform Ear Exams on all members of Congress twice a year...

A Different Kind of Quantum Computing (1, Informative)

moslevin (874414) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347477)

It sounds like the terminology is confusing a few people here. As I understand it, there are two kinds of quantum computer being researched- the one that everybody seems to be familiar with (ie. the ones that can solve cryptographic problems very quickly), and the other kind, which involves using the physical properties of individual quanta to create quantum wires, transistors, and gates to form clocked, general purpose architectures. This article is talking about the second type of QCs. Currently, the biggest challenges (from what I've read) associated with implementing the second type of QCs has to do with manufacturing tolerances required to create quantum wells capable of keeping quantum data encapsulated and determinsitic. The other challenges include finding ways to clock these quantum circuits, and ways of inputting/outputting the data. So, from my interpretation, this article is really just talking about some potential solutions for aspects related to the second type of QCs I mentioned.

Re:A Different Kind of Quantum Computing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12347607)

The other challenges include finding ways to clock these quantum circuits, and ways of inputting/outputting the data.

Not every circuit needs to be clocked. There are family of circuits which work just fine with handshake protocols are actually pretty robust to temperature and processing variations. So clocking is the least of the issue right now.

I wonder... (1)

FreakyControl (751781) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347491)

One strategy for making them involves packaging individual atoms on a chip so that laser beams can read quantum data.

I wonder if reading the state on one QC will inadvertently change the state on a QC somewhere else in the world. Of course, a worst case scenario would be if someone were trying to get there pR0n real fast and made that alien ships QC navigational system fail...

The Law. (3, Interesting)

k96822 (838564) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347531)

...and this is why Moore's Law will continue, even though Moore himself says that it won't. Never underestimate the cleverness of the Human.

Re:The Law. (2, Interesting)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347639)

Never underestimate the cleverness of the Human.

*cough*fusionpower*cough* The eternally "just around the corner" technology.

Hey, I tease mankind. :)

Seinfeld (1)

micromuncher (171881) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347651)

Tiny holes... that contain nothing at all. An article about tiny holes. An article about nothing. Reminds me of Seinfeld.

Void? (1)

Netsensei (838071) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347666)

This is going to give a total new meaning to the 'void' keyword in high level programming languages like Java, I suppose.

Awesomeness (1)

meester fox (877084) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347683)

I can't wait to get my hands on quantum computing. Then again, a quantum computer could crack into a regular one with quite some ease, based on the estimated power of them. Then again, with what I belive is called quantum encryption, data security problems will be a thing of the past, even with such powerful computers. But, time will tell.

RIAA Loses (1)

Billygoatz (861464) | more than 9 years ago | (#12347751)

I for one am very excited.

I have thousands of hours of mp3s.

My Quantum computer could represent (and play)all possible kickass songs, while all crap songs (Rap HipHop) would be canceled out through destructive interference.

The best thing of all is if the RIAA raids me. Simply observing quantum metallica destroys or disrupts the data.

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