The Idiot’s Guide to Quantum Computing

A two-minute explainer on a major game-changer.

Oct 19 2015, 4:39pm

Quantum computing is almost certainly the next big thing, with the potential to change computers forever. But the science is not super easy for the layperson to understand, which is why The Verge created this two-minute explainer.

Present day computers are limited by their hardware. They use electrical circuits that are switched on or off, in a 0 or 1 position. Quantum computing would change that by using particles called qubits, which are suspended in a super-cold environment where the temperature nears absolute zero. The network formed by these particles allows for processing power to grow exponentially, as the qubits can be simultaneously at a 0 and a 1. (The video doesn't cover exactly how that works, but you can read the super-smart Michael Byrne on quantum computing here and here.)

For the home user, it might not make that much difference. Personal computers are already pretty fast when it comes to doing the usual stuff, like looking at porn and watching Vines of people falling down. But quantum computers would be able to help scientists and researchers who deal with a lot of data at once: one example given in the video is weather prediction.

If you still need convincing on how big this is, Google and Microsoft have each formed their own quantum-focused labs, and Microsoft has even speculated that quantum computing could be here by 2025.