Tuesday, July 28, 2009

William Halal on Quantum Computing

William Halal published a book titled "Technology's Promise: Expert Knowledge on the Transformation of Business and Society" in 2008 [1]. (You can find it here on Amazon.) I had read an early draft of the book in the summer of 2007 prior to a presentation he did at Colorado Technical University's Institute for Advanced Studies.

Quantum computers currently don't exist outside the lab. What we do have in the lab doesn't consist of more than a few handfuls of qubits. This is because physically implementing quantum computers is a very hard task do to decoherence. In other words the system must be isolated from the outside environment. If the qubits interact with the outside environment then it is an observation and the system will "collapse" out of superposition and yield a classical result.

Given the difficulty in implementing quantum computers, there are a wide variety of guesses on when and if they'll become available. I've heard everything from we have them now (D-Wave systems) to we'll never have them.

What William Halal has done is utilize the work of the TechCast project to gather the opinions of 100 experts to come up with best guesses. (These experts are gathered from around the world.) According to this, he lists that "...quantum computers are likely to become available about 2021 +/- 5 years" in "Technology's Promise".

I think the prediction of 2021 is a reasonable one. This still gives us 12 years to overcome the challenges of creating them, which is quite a long time in technology. I wouldn't be too surprised if some hurdles pushed us out a few years, but I also wouldn't be surprised if we made some leaps that also rained the date in a few years. In any case, I expect to see some big advances toward making quantum computing a reality in the next decade or two.

[1] W. E. Halal, Technology's Promise: Expert Knowledge on the Transformation of Business and Society, 1 ed. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Splice for Web Service Mashups

This post plays off the previous on cloud computing. Full disclosure: I work for Xignite and helped to write Splice.

Splice is a web service mashup platform that allows you mix and mash web services. (One can think of this as combining the results from multiple web services and altering the output as desired: renaming, dropping, and restructuring the output.) The development environment is graphical meaning that you can do all this without any programming. It also has the added benefit of making web service calls in parallel where possible. Often in programming parallezing parts of a program can be difficult, so this is an important benefit. Thus one can think of Splice facilitating the customized exchange of data between systems via web services.

So how does this fit in with quantum computing? One could use it to tie together various simulation pieces to facilitate simulations across various systems.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Cloud Computing

The Horizon Report (2009) lists cloud computing as a technology taking hold in one year or less [1]. I would argue that it has taken hold already, as the article lists several examples.

How does cloud computing play into quantum computer programming? I see it as having the potential for carrying out large simulations of quantum computers. With Cove [2] I ran into memory and computation constraints pretty early on when simulating just a few handfuls of qubits. Taking advantage of multiple cores is an obvious first step, but utilizing the cloud would allow for even larger simulations. Of course the problem has to be decomposed to take advantage of the cloud, but simulations essentially boil down to multiplication between large matrices.

Of course an obvious advantage of using the cloud is the pay as you go model. Instead of building up a lab to run my simulation, I can just take advantage of the cloud and avoid the expense and overhead of setting up this lab.

[1] NMC. (2009). Cloud Computing - The Horizon Project, New Media Consortium, 2009. Retrieved July 21, 2009, from http://horizon.nmc.org/wiki/Cloud-Computing
[2] https://cove.purkeypile.com/

Cove Presentation Posted

I did a presentation on Cove (the quantum computer programming framework I've developed) last week at Colorado Technical University. It is the slides that are in the last post, along with my presentation of them and some question and answers.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Cove: A Practical Quantum Computer Programming Framework

My doctoral research at Colorado Technical University has been in quantum computer programming. As part of that I developed a framework for programming quantum computers, called Cove. You can find presentations, source code, etc on the site for Cove.

The slides from my dissertation defense give a pretty good introduction to quantum computers, and how Cove fits in. You can find the slides on the Cove website or on slideshare.net:

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

David Detsch on TED Talks

David Deutsch is considered by many people, myself included, to be one of the founders of quantum computing. This is something he introduced in the mid 1980's by showing something that could be done with a quantum computer that couldn't be done with a classical (modern) computer [1]. This is known as Deutsch algorithm, although it wasn't very useful. Consequently quantum computing was something of an oddity until Peter Shor introduced his factoring algorithm in the mid 1990's [2].

While this TED Talk is several years old, I still find it an interesting talk from one of the father's of quantum computing: http://blog.ted.com/2006/09/david_deutsch_o.php. In this talk he brings up two points that I find pretty interesting and worthy of some more discussion:
  1. What can be done is really only limited by the laws of physics. If the laws of physics don't prevent it then it is really only our lack of knowledge on how to do it.
  2. He advocates that we need to be able to fix problems, not just prevent them. He applies this to the medical field: if you get punched in the nose you want your nose fixed, not how not to get punched in the nose. He also applies this to global warming, which I thought was pretty insightful.
While a great scientist, Deutsch's views on other things are insightful and thought provoking. If you have the 19 minutes to spare, I recommend you check out is talk in the link above. If you have even more time I recommend you check out his book, The Fabric of Reality [3].

[1] D. Deutsch, "Quantum theory, the Church-Turing principle and the universal quantum computer," Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, vol. A, pp. 97-117, 1985.
[2] P. W. Shor, "Polynomial-Time Algorithms for Prime Factorization and Discrete Logarithms on a Quantum Computer," SIAM Journal on Computing, vol. 26, p. 25, October 1997 1997.
[3] D. Deutsch, The Fabric of Reality, 1 ed. London: Penguin Books, 1997.