The first third of the 20th century saw the collapse of many absolutes. Albert Einstein's 1905 special relativity theory eliminated the notion of absolute time, while Kurt Gödel's 1931 incompleteness theorem questioned the notion of absolute mathematical truth. Most profoundly, however, quantum mechanics raised doubts on the notion of absolute objective reality. Is Schrödinger's cat dead or alive? Nearly 100 years after quantum mechanics was introduced, scientists still are not in full agreement on what it means.
Over the past couple of years, quantum computing has moved from the theoretical side to practice. Right now, there is actual quantum hardware -- although not great -- that you can use to execute codes written in Python. This big step from theory to practice made getting into the field of quantum computing more accessible and doable for anyone interested. If you were ever curious about quantum computing and its potential to improve many fields such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, not to mention the premise that it could solve problems current computers failed to solve. You probably tried to look up some materials and try to read more on the topic. Finding good materials is not always an easy task.
A popular misconception is that the potential--and the limits--of quantum computing must come from hardware. In the digital age, we've gotten used to marking advances in clock speed and memory. Likewise, the 50-qubit quantum machines now coming online from the likes of Intel and IBM have inspired predictions that we are nearing "quantum supremacy"--a nebulous frontier where quantum computers begin to do things beyond the ability of classical machines.
Quantum computing was first envisioned in the late 70s and early 80s as a means for efficiently simulating complicated physical systems. Before anyone could build a quantum computer, a new mathematical construction of quantum information was necessary. Experimentalists needed to understand how to manipulate qubits, and engineers had to develop the technology to do so. Considering the amount of research that was necessary, scientists have made incredible progress in the four decades since the first mention of quantum computing. Today we are on the brink of achieving incredible computing power.
European quantum physicists have done some amazing things over the past few decades: sent single photons to Earth orbit and back, created quantum bits that will be at the heart of computers that can crack today's encryption, and "teleported" the quantum states of photons, electrons, and atoms. But they've had less success at turning the science into technology. At least that's the feeling of some 3,400 scientists who signed the "Quantum Manifesto," which calls for a big European project to support and coordinate quantum-tech R&D. The European Commission heard them, and answered in May with a 1 billion, 10-year-long megaproject called the Quantum Technology Flagship, to begin in 2018. "Europe had two choices: either band together and compete, or forget the whole thing and let others capitalize on research done in Europe," says Anton Zeilinger, a physicist at the University of Vienna who did breakthrough work in quantum teleportation, which would be key to a future Internet secured by quantum physics.