The success of the abstract model of computation, in terms of bits, logical operations, programming language constructs, and the like, makes it easy to forget that computation is a physical process. Our cherished notions of computation and information are grounded in classical mechanics, but the physics underlying our world is quantum. In the early 80s researchers began to ask how computation would change if we adopted a quantum mechanical, instead of a classical mechanical, view of computation. Slowly, a new picture of computation arose, one that gave rise to a variety of faster algorithms, novel cryptographic mechanisms, and alternative methods of communication. Small quantum information processing devices have been built, and efforts are underway to build larger ones. Even apart from the existence of these devices, the quantum view on information processing has provided significant insight into the nature of computation and information, and a deeper understanding of the physics of our universe and its connections with computation. We start by describing aspects of quantum mechanics that are at the heart of a quantum view of information processing. We give our own idiosyncratic view of a number of these topics in the hopes of correcting common misconceptions and highlighting aspects that are often overlooked. A number of the phenomena described were initially viewed as oddities of quantum mechanics. It was quantum information processing, first quantum cryptography and then, more dramatically, quantum computing, that turned the tables and showed that these oddities could be put to practical effect. It is these application we describe next. We conclude with a section describing some of the many questions left for future work, especially the mysteries surrounding where the power of quantum information ultimately comes from.
- Pub Date:
- June 2012
- Quantum Physics;
- Computer Science - General Literature
- Invited book chapter for Computation for Humanity - Information Technology to Advance Society to be published by CRC Press. Concepts clarified and style made more uniform in version 2. Many thanks to the referees for their suggestions for improvements