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

By George Johnson

During this remarkably illustrative and carefully available examine the most exciting frontiers in technology and pcs, award-winning ny occasions author George Johnson finds the attention-grabbing international of quantum computing—the holy grail of tremendous pcs the place the computing energy of unmarried atoms is harnassed to create machines able to nearly incredible calculations within the blink of an eye.As computing device chips proceed to scale back in dimension, scientists expect the tip of the line: a working laptop or computer within which every one swap is constituted of a unmarried atom. this kind of gadget might function below a unique set of actual legislation: The legislation of quantum mechanics. Johnson lightly leads the curious outsider throughout the strangely easy principles had to comprehend this dream, discussing the present country of the revolution, and eventually assessing the impressive energy those machines may have to alter our global.

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The result was a mechanical claw that combed its way through the Tinkertoy database feeling for a match. When the pattern of Tinkertoy spools on one of the memory spindles meshed with the pattern on the input stick, the latter would rotate. This action caused an output contrap­ tion, called a "duck," to swing down, p ecking at the number of the cell in which the computer wished to make its mark. Both Tinkertoy computers, the earlier version and the later one, embody the same abstract idea: Information can be repre­ sented by anything that can reside in one of two distinct states­ a switch turned on or off or a Tinkertoy that is here or there.

The old notions of computation begin to crumble, and we're no longer playing with Tinkertoys. I confess that, on the deepest level, I find quantum mechanics hard to swallow. I know I'm not alone. The brain was molded by evolution to guide people through a world of objects made from many atoms, so many that the weird quantum effects are not evident. Things appear to be either here or there, spinning this way or that. Whatever progress can be made in grasping how opposites can coexist on the atomic realm comes from acknowledging the narrowness of the human point of view.

It is definitively on or off. We don't need to worry about the switch being in quantum limbo. The result is an obediently deterministic contraption that can be used to simulate other deterministic contraptions: the mechanical motion inside a gasoline engine, the patterns of traf­ fic in a city, or the workings of another computer. In fact, given enough memory and time, any computer can simulate any other computer. This is one of the deepest principles of computer sci­ ence. An ancient Radio Shack or Apple with a cassette tape drive for a memory can mimic a supercomputer like Q.

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