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.