Quantum computing

  • Peter W. Shor


The Church-Turing thesis says that a digital computer is a universal computational device; that is, it is able to simulate any physically realizable computational device. It has generally been believed that this simulation can be made efficient so that it entails at most a polynomial increase in computation time. This may not be true if quantum mechanics is taken into consideration. A quantum computer is a hypothetical machine based on quantum mechanics. We explain quantum computing, and give an algorithm for prime factorization on a quantum computer that runs asymptotically much faster than the best known algorithm on a digital computer. It is not clear whether it will ever be possible to build large-scale quantum computers. One of the main difficulties is in manipulating coherent quantum states without introducing errors or losing coherence. We discuss quantum error-correcting codes and fault-tolerant quantum computing, which can guarantee highly reliable quantum computation, given only moderately reliable quantum computing hardware.