joe writes "Aram Harrow and colleagues have just published on the arXiv a quantum algorithm for solving systems of linear equations (paper, PDF). Until now, the only quantum algorithms of practical consequence have been Shor's algorithm for prime factoring, and Feynman-inspired quantum simulation algorithms. All other algorithms either solve problems with no known practical applications, or produce only a polynomial speedup versus classical algorithms. Harrow et. al.'s algorithm provides an exponential speedup over the best-known classical algorithms. Since solving linear equations is such a common task in computational science and engineering, this algorithm makes many more important problems that currently use thousands of hours of CPU time on supercomputers amenable to significant quantum speedup. Now we just need a large-scale quantum computer. Hurry up, guys!"