SITE VISIT: Quantum Computing on Cue

Science  11 Jun 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5421, pp. 1731
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5421.1731c

If quantum computers are ever built, they might need only minutes to perform tasks that would take today's fastest supercomputer millions of years. Quantum bits, or qubits, which store and process information, can assume the values of 1 and 0 simultaneously. That means 100 qubits can calculate in just one step a computation that ordinary bits would need to repeat 2100 times. Confused or intrigued? Check out the University of Oxford's Centre for Quantum Computation Web site ( Besides serving experts, “we try to maintain information which will interest people who simply wonder what quantum computing is all about,” says one of the Web masters, Benjamin Simon.

The site's list of frequently asked questions and tutorials delves into topics such as how, by factoring very large numbers quickly, quantum computing can be exploited to crack existing cryptographic codes; and how quantum teleportation can be used to transport information securely over long distances. People up to speed on quantum computing will find links to recent papers, as well as a jobs listing and links to conferences. Use the site as a springboard to access the Web pages of research groups that describe attempts to build quantum computers: A Stanford-Berkeley-MIT-IBM collaboration uses atomic nuclei as qubits, which they tweak with magnetic fields, and a Los Alamos group makes qubits by trapping and manipulating ions with lasers.

Another worthwhile site is the EuroQuantum home page ( at the University of Vienna. It describes work on quantum computing in Europe and also has a good set of tutorials for interested beginners.

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