Originally published June 17 2012
Synthetic diamond material makes code-breaking quantum computing one step closer to reality
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) What would it be like to live in a world where there could be no secrets? Where nothing - not even the strongest military-grade encryption programs - would be able to protect private, personal information?
It may seem like we already live in that kind of world, judging by the regular occurrences of having our private information hacked and stolen. But the truth is, most of our information is currently safe. For now.
Researchers are working with synthetic diamond material to dramatically improve so-called "quantum" computing, quantum being the development of the smallest amount of many forms of energy. If successful, this could change everything we (and everyone else) hold as private.
Synthetic diamond manufacturer Element Six has been working in partnership with academics at Harvard University, the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and Germany's Max-Planck-Institut fur Quantenoptik to develop the technology. But so have others, including tech giant IBM. The idea is to make a real-world computer processor that is capable of cracking even the most sophisticated codes.
To understand the concept, it's best if you first understood a little about regular-versus-quantum computing.
"Quantum computers differ from classical, or regular, computers at the most basic unit of information. In classical computing, the basic unit of information is a bit: either a 1 or 0," writes John Roach at MSNBC.com.
Quantum computing is beyond cutting edge
Matthias Steffen, the manager of IBM's experimental quantum computing group, explained the quantum "leap," so to speak, to Roach recently. "A quantum bit can do the same thing, but it can also be both [a 1 and a 0] at the same time, which is a very strange concept," he said.
That's like being in two places at the same time - here and there, Roach explained.
"What this enables you to do is to perform certain tasks much, much faster than you can with a classical computer," Steffen added.
To say such technology is cutting edge is an understatement; in fact, the "latest" quantum research is almost out of date by the time scientists and physicists can even get it published.
One of the things quantum researchers know for certain they can do is a process known as factoring, which is breaking down a number to its prime components (the prime numbers of 15, for example, are 3 and 5).
Steffen told MSNBC.com that most data encryption relies on the concept that factoring very large numbers takes a lot of time. So, being able to factor much more quickly is central to solving the complex math problems associated with encrypted data.
Right now, "cracking the most secure codes in existence might require a computer farm covering much of North America to run at full speed for 10 years, even if it did not consume all of the Earth's energy in a single day," Innovation News Daily reported in February.
But a future quantum computer the size of a single building might take as little as 16 hours and consume only about the same amount of energy as one of today's supercomputers.
"On the quantum computer, you can perform these tasks exponentially faster, so that really has broad implications for data encryption," Steffen said.
Affecting lives 'in ways we haven't anticipated'
Besides code-breaking, researchers believe quantum computing can be used for other things, such as more efficient searches through databases of aggregate, but unstructured, information about each of us, gathered from Google searches, things we've posted about ourselves on social media sites like Facebook, and things we've Tweeted.
And scientists are getting closer to these goals every day.
"We've taken a problem that I used to think was an insanely difficult problem and we've turned it into something that I now think is merely very, very hard," John Martinis, a physicist at the University of California Santa Barbara, told IND.
What the technology won't likely be used for is the mundane sort of things computer systems handle now.
"We don't currently envision you'll be sending your email and processing on a quantum computer," says John Preskill, a physicist at the California Institute. "On the other hand, quantum games might be a blast. It could affect lives in ways we haven't anticipated."
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