EDUCATION: Next-Generation Computing?

Science  14 Sep 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5537, pp. 1959e
DOI: 10.1126/science.293.5537.1959e

The sands of time are running out for silicon, as ever-smaller computer chips near a physical limit. However, the days of faster, better, cheaper machines may not end if scientists can develop quantum computers that encode information in the different quantum states of individual atoms. To learn more about the principles behind this embryonic technology, try this primer. You'll need a grounding in physics and mathematics to follow the explanations of subjects like why the bits in a quantum computer (known as qubits) can be in both the 0 and 1 states simultaneously and how an obscure method for factoring numbers, known as Shor's algorithm, spurred interest in quantum computing. This shorter, denser treatment covers some of the same ground.

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