Quantum computers—theoretical machines which can process certain large and difficult problems exponentially faster than classical computers—have been a mainstay of science fiction for decades. But actually building one has proven incredibly challenging.
Even by the normal standards of quantum weirdness, this one is really out there. You can take a piece of quantum information and only teach half to another person...but you'll never be able to figure out which half they learned.
Microprocessors are getting so tiny that they're actually small enough for quantum mechanics to start affecting their performance. That's bad news for traditional computing, but it's led to a breakthrough in spintronics, getting us a step closer to quantum computers.
I don't know when optical quantum computers are going to arrive, but I sure hope they look like this crazy Toshiba visualization of an Entangled Light Emitting Diode. This new LED type could finally make practical quantum computers possible.
In the future, quantum computers will accomplish in seconds what would take years with our best computers today. Physicists at NIST have made a significant leap towards this goal by demonstrating the first "universal" programmable quantum information processor.
Over 400 million transistors are packed on dual-core chips manufactured using Intel's 45nm process. That'll double soon, per Moore's Law. And it'll still be like computing with pebbles compared to quantum computing.
Yale researchers just made the first, albeit simple, quantum processor. The processor is made of two artificial atoms (each made of a billion aluminum atoms) that act like single atoms that can occupy two distinct states.