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Math Supercomputing Science

Making Cesium Atoms Do a Quantum Walk 117

An anonymous reader recommends an Ars Technica account of a breakthrough in efforts toward quantum computing. German scientists have managed to get cesium atoms in a state called a "quantum walk": basically a superposition of all the possible states of a particle. "Quantum walks were first proposed by physicist Richard Feynman and are, in terms of probability, the opposite of a random walk. A random walk might be modeled by a person flipping a coin, and for each flip he steps left for heads and right for tails. In this case, his most probable location is the center, with the probability distribution tapering off in either direction. A quantum walk involves the use of internal states and superpositions, and results in the hypothetical person 'exploring' every possible position simultaneously." In the abstract of the paper from Science (subscription needed for full-text access), the researchers say: "Our system allows the observation of the quantum-to-classical transition and paves the way for applications, such as quantum cellular automata."
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Making Cesium Atoms Do a Quantum Walk

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  • by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <> on Monday July 20, 2009 @11:31PM (#28765583)

    Cesium is an interesting element in that it is perfectly reliable. While some elements will differ in atomic weight due to random changes in their electron sphere radii and the number of neutrons in the nucleus, Cesium has a perfect vibration rate independent of external stimuli. It is so regular and reliable, in fact, that we base our entire measurement of time on clocks composed purely of Cesium.

    If, as is demonstrated here, Cesium can be used to explore multiple quantum states in a regular and reliable fashion, the possibility to build quantum computers and automata based on Cesium goes way up. Not only would these "computers" function better than our current computers, they would always be 100% perfect (unless Intel manufactures them, lol) and not prone to error or breakage.

  • by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @11:44PM (#28765669) Homepage

    As far as I know it, we have three main instruction sets. Integer, Floating Point, and Vector (SSE, MMX..etc). Would it more likely be that we would end up with the forth set being Quantum? Or, would it be possible to have an entire CPU quantum based?

  • by gcnaddict ( 841664 ) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @12:30AM (#28765915)
    Theoretically speaking, if we could get, say, an entire ship and all of its inhabitants to do this "quantum walk"...

    wouldn't we be well on our way towards creating an improbability drive?

    I'm probably hugely stretching this beyond what it means.

Mathemeticians stand on each other's shoulders while computer scientists stand on each other's toes. -- Richard Hamming