Fighting Corruption in the Quantum World

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Science  18 Sep 1998:
Vol. 281, Issue 5384, pp. 1781
DOI: 10.1126/science.281.5384.1781a

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Proposed quantum computers, operating according to the unfamiliar laws of quantum mechanics, could in principle do certain types of problems such as factoring big numbers incredibly efficiently and would render obsolete today's most secure encryption systems, which are based on the difficulty of this task. But skeptics say that the fragility of quantum information threatens the whole idea of a practical quantum computer. Now a team of theorists and experimenters has shown that quantum computers could identify errors and fix them. Using the magnetization of atoms in organic molecules to model a system of three quantum bits ("qubits"), they were able to calculate the error on one qubit without disturbing it by looking at the other two; they were then able to correct the error with a radio-frequency pulse.