A new kind of light-manipulating device — built
by researchers at the University of Queensland
in Australia and elsewhere — does what no
ordinary computer could ever do.


Photon devices could outperform ordinary computers

Experiments with light confirm the need for quantum machines.

Devin Powell
21 December 2012

Advocates of ‘quantum computers’ say that these machines will be able to perform tasks too big for classical computers to tackle, such as cracking the codes that protect bank transactions. Now several teams have solid evidence that quantum physics does indeed embody a level of complexity that classical computers could never match. The new devices these groups have built are much simpler to build than quantum computers but could some day perform some of the same tasks.

In 2010 Scott Aaronson and Alex Arkhipov, theoretical computer scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, wrote a long paper arguing that certain quantum particles, such as photons, the quanta of light, have behaviours that are practically impossible to predict using ordinary computers. They did so by showing that the way photons interact with one another is described by mathematical rules widely believed to be ‘exponentially slow’ to calculate, meaning that the time it takes to get the result must increase exponentially with the number of photons.

Read more: Photon devices could outperform ordinary computers : Nature News & Comment.

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