In 1994, MIT professor of applied mathematics, Peter Shor, developed a groundbreaking quantum computing algorithm capable of factoring numbers (that is, finding the prime numbers for any integer N) using quantum computer technology. For the next decade, this algorithm provided a tantalizing glimpse at the potential prowess of quantum computing versus classical systems. However researchers could never definitively prove that quantum would always be faster in this application or whether classical systems could overtake quantum if given a sufficiently robust algorithm of its own. In a paper published Thursday in the journal Science, Dr. Sergey Bravyi and his team reveal that they've developed a mathematical proof which, in specific cases, illustrates the quantum algorithm's inherent computational advantages over classical. "It's good to know, because results like this become parts of algorithms," Bob Sutor, vice president of IBM Q Strategy and Ecosystem, told Engadget.

Quantum mechanics are notoriously mind-bending because so-called "qubits" -- the atomic-scale building blocks of quantum computers -- can inhabit more than one physical state at once. That's known as superposition, and it's what gives the prospect of quantum computers their exciting potential. It's just potential at this point, however, because there are still many, many challenges to be solved before we can create a working quantum computer. A recent study focused on the game Quantum Moves, which is based on a real problem in quantum computing. Essentially, players are asked to move an atom among wells in an egg-carton-like container without disturbing the delicate quantum state.

We humans may still be licking our wounds following AI's victory at the ancient game of Go, but it turns out we still have something to be proud of: We're doing a lot better than machines are at solving some of the key problems of quantum computing. Quantum mechanics are notoriously mind-bending because so-called "qubits" -- the atomic-scale building blocks of quantum computers -- can inhabit more than one physical state at once. That's known as superposition, and it's what gives the prospect of quantum computers their exciting potential. It's just potential at this point, however, because there are still many, many challenges to be solved before we can create a working quantum computer. That's where gaming comes in.

Big things happen when computers get smaller. And quantum computing is about chasing perhaps the biggest performance boost in the history of technology. The basic idea is to smash some barriers that limit the speed of existing computers by harnessing the counterintuitive physics of subatomic scales. If the tech industry pulls off that, ahem, quantum leap, you won't be getting a quantum computer for your pocket. We could, however, see significant improvements in many areas of science and technology, such as longer-lasting batteries for electric cars or advances in chemistry that reshape industries or enable new medical treatments. Quantum computers won't be able to do everything faster than conventional computers, but on some tricky problems they have advantages that would enable astounding progress.