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Putting a Quantum Computer to Work in a Cup of Coffee

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Science  17 Jan 1997:
Vol. 275, Issue 5298, pp. 307-309
DOI: 10.1126/science.275.5298.307

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A quantum computer, tapping into the quantum weirdness of the microscopic world, could in theory collapse calculations that would take billions of years on mundane supercomputers into a few seconds. Experimentally, though, quantum computers have been daunting. Now two groups of researchers have come up with a way to realize at least some of that potential by applying nuclear magnetic resonance—a standard technique in medical imaging and chemical analysis—to a liquid as simple as coffee (see Research Article on p. 350). By flipping, coupling, and reading out the spins of individual nuclei in the coffee, the strategy can turn it into a quantum logic gate and even a quantum integrated circuit.