Wired and IBM Explain Quantum Computing to Students from Grade School to Grad School

Have you ever heard the old axiom that if you want to design a simple system, ask yourself if your grandmother could use it? Maybe that was on Wired’s mind because they asked a quantum computing expert — particularly IBM’s [Dr. Talia Gershon] — to explain what exactly quantum computing is at 5 levels. In the video they shot, which you can see below, [Dr. Gershon] talks to a younger child, a teenager, an undergraduate computer science student, a graduate student, and then a physicist.

We enjoyed some of the analogies of spinning pennies and the way she was able to bring the topic to an appropriate level for each of the participants. Truthfully, the final segment with the physicist ([Dr. Steven Girvin] was more of a conversation than an explanation, but it was interesting to hear his views on fault tolerance and how likely certain things were to occur in the near future.

If you understand spin, superposition, and entanglement, you might not get a lot out of this video. However, we find putting things in basic terms — or in this case, hearing someone else do it — sometimes gives you a new insight. It would also be really helpful to watch if you plan to try to explain quantum computing to students.

There are a few comments about how quantum computers work that would have been better stated as “how IBM quantum computers work” but we can overlook that. But there are several competing architectures out there.

IBM has made a few smaller quantum machines available on the Web and we talked about how to use them and some simulators in a series last year. The simulators can be more fun because they are much more capable than the real things available today. However, there’s something visceral about working on real hardware, even if it is in the cloud.

10 thoughts on “Wired and IBM Explain Quantum Computing to Students from Grade School to Grad School

      1. Quantum computing does exist. Many people know how to do it and can explain it.

        It’s just that this particular video was lousy at explaining it. For 20 minutes the video kept trying to explain like it was talking to a 10 years old all the time. It didn’t raised the bar as expected, and just kept repeating again and again the same vague ideas. The video was a failure IMO, I don’t get why everybody is so hyped about it, and why Google kept shoveling that video as recommended. My guess is Wired payed for the video to be advertised, but this is just my personal speculation.

        Try this one:

  1. I’m not saying that quantum computing is bullshit in it’s entireity…
    …but as I understand it a quantum communication channel via entanglement over any kind of distance is impossible for 2 reasons. 1 – moving entangled qbits apart subjects them to environmental interferance. and 2- setting an entangled qbit to a state entangles it to the object used to set it and breaks entanglement with ot’s original partner.

    is there a known theoretical program of using quantum computation to provide reliable encrypted communication over a traditional data-link?

    1. Below is from: https://cosmosmagazine.com/physics/quantum-computing-for-the-qubit-curious

      The difference between regular computers and quantum computers boils down to how they approach a problem.

      A regular computer tries to solve a problem the same way you might try to escape a maze – by trying every possible corridor, turning back at dead ends, until you eventually find the way out. But superposition allows the quantum computer to try all the paths at once – in essence, finding the shortcut.

      Two bits in your computer can be in four possible states (00, 01, 10, or 11), but only one of them at any time. This limits the computer to processing one input at a time (like trying one corridor in the maze).

      In a quantum computer, two qubits can also represent the exact same four states (00, 01, 10, or 11). The difference is, because of superposition, the qubits can represent all four at the same time. That’s a bit like having four regular computers running side-by-side.

      If you add more bits to a regular computer, it can still only deal with one state at a time. But as you add qubits, the power of your quantum computer grows exponentially. For the mathematically inclined, we can say that if you have “n” qubits, you can simultaneously represent 2n states.)

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