Everyone is always talking about traveling through time, but if you ask me, the ultimate vacation in time would be just stopping the clock a little. Who of us couldn’t take a five or six month break after 2020 before committing to a whole new calendar year? It’s not you in 2021; It’s us.
Unfortunately, this is not an episode of Rick and Morty so we cannot stop time until we are ready to move on.
But maybe our computers can.
A couple of studies of quantum algorithms by independent research teams recently examined the arXiv preprint servers. Both are basically about the same thing: They use clever algorithms to solve nonlinear differential equations.
And when you squint them through the lens of speculative science You may, like me, conclude that this is a recipe for computers that basically works Stop time to solve a problem that requires a near-instant solution.
Linear equations are the be-all and end-all of classical computing. We crack numbers and use basic binary calculations to determine what happens next in a linear pattern or sequence using classical algorithms. Nonlinear differential equations, however, are harder. They are often too difficult or completely impractical for even the most powerful classical computer to solve them.[Read next: How Netflix shapes mainstream culture, explained by data]
The hope is that one day quantum computers will break the limit and make these difficult-to-solve problems appear like ordinary arithmetic problems.
When computers solve such problems, they are basically predicting the future. Today’s AI, running on classic computers, can look at an image of a ball in the air and, given enough data, predict where the ball is going. You can add a few more balls to the equation and the computer will still get it right most of the time.
However, once you get to the point where the scale of interactivity creates a feedback loop, e.g. When observing particle interactions, for example, or throwing a handful of glitter in the air, a classic computer essentially doesn’t have the ooomph to deal with physics on this scale.
This is why we cannot predict the weather, as quantum researcher Andrew Childs told Quanta Magazine. There are just too many particle interactions for a normal old computer to follow.
But quantum computers do not adhere to the binary rules of classical computing. Not only can you zigzag and zigzag, but you can also zigzag while zigzagging or doing both at the same time. For our purposes, this means that they can potentially solve difficult problems such as: B. “Where will every single glitter spot be in 0.02 seconds?” or “What is the optimal path for this traveling salesman?”
To understand how to get from here to there (and what it means) we need to look at the papers above. The first is from the University of Maryland. You can check it out here, but the part we won’t focus on now is this:
In this article we presented a quantum Carleman linearization (QCL) algorithm for a class of quadratic nonlinear differential equations. Compared to the previous approach of our algorithm improves the complexity from an exponential dependence on T to an almost quadratic dependence, under the condition R <1.
And let’s take a look at the second paper. This is from a team at MIT:
This work has shown that quantum computers can in principle achieve an exponential advantage over classical computers when solving nonlinear differential equations. The major potential advantage of the nonlinear quantum equation algorithm over classical algorithms is that it scales logarithmically in the dimension of the solution space, making it a natural candidate for application to high dimensional problems such as the Navier-Stokes equation and other nonlinear fluids, plasmas, etc..
Both articles are fascinating (you should read them later!), But I risk oversimplification by saying: They describe how we can create algorithms for quantum computers to solve these really tough problems.
What does that mean? We hear how quantum computers can solve drug discovery or huge math problems, but where does the rubber actually hit the streets? I say classic computing gave us iPhones, jet fighters, and video games. What will that do?
It will possibly give quantum computers the ability to essentially stop time. As you can imagine, this doesn’t mean that either of us will get a remote control with a pause button that we can use to take a break from an argument like the Adam Sandler film “Click”.
This means that a powerful quantum computer running the great-great-great-great-grandchildren of the algorithms developed today could one day be able to functionally evaluate physics at the particle level with sufficient speed and accuracy to perform the Allowing passage time is a non-factor in its execution.
So if someone threw a handful of glitter at you in the future and you had a swarm of quantum-powered defense drones, they could respond instantly by positioning themselves perfectly between you and the particles that came from the glitter explosion to protect you. For a less interesting use case, you can model and predict Earth’s weather patterns over an extremely long period of time with near-perfect accuracy.
Ultimately, this means that quantum computers will one day work in a functional time gap and solve problems almost exactly at the infinitely finite moment in which they occur.
H / t: Max G. Levy, Quanta Magazine
Published on January 13, 2021 – 19:46 UTC