Analyse any document containing data produced with today’s techniques in only a few minutes; simulate every physical process; see virtual worlds; make it impossible to intercept messages; provide intimate links between ‘virtual’ and ‘real’: these are just some of the potential uses for quantum IT in the medium, long and very long-term. A new frontier for information technology and, possibly, for how we perceive the universe and our ability to interact with it. However, whilst the theory is available, its practice is still in its infancy.

Quantum physics, this other world

Quantum mechanics (or physics) was born at the start of the 20th century from the observation that some phenomena, especially at a molecular scale, did not obey the traditional ‘Newton’ physical rules. It is a complicated theory and often goes against our instincts in so far as it deals with phenomena that, by definition, we are unable to observe directly and because the measuring instruments are themselves composed of particles and interact with what they are monitoring. Niels Bohr, one of the pioneers of quantum physics said that ‘anyone who is not shocked by quantum mechanics has not fully understood…. However this theory has developed considerably over the century and been the subject of numerous experiments; it provides an effective explanation for many phenomena that were hitherto incomprehensible – and more importantly, have led to many technical applications of which quantum IT is neither the best known nor the most mature: lasers, superconductors, semiconductors (see also the nanotechnologies sheet).