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Quantum Leaps in Quantumness

A few weeks ago, 360 Live Media had the privilege to play a role in the launch of one of the space industry’s most innovative new events that is likely to influence the future of space exploration in a big way. It’s called ASCEND, an acronym for Accelerating Space Commerce Exploration and New Discoveries, and is spearheaded by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

 

What makes ASCEND so different from other events in the same space is the fact that it’s the first of its kind to not only convene the traditional players of the international space community, both public and private, but also non-traditional, non-space-related companies that’ll have an important role to play in making humanity’s approaching off-world future a reality—entities like mining, food science, hospitality, and pharmaceuticals.

 

ASCEND is not about old space or new space, but future space. To emphasize the futuristic vision of ASCEND, to commemorate its official launch during this year’s International Astronautical Congress (IAC), we published an entire week of “ASCEND Today”, a newspaper from the year 2044, filled with stories of what humanity’s off-world future just might look like.

 

While ASCEND Today was intended to peer 25-years into the future—as if to telegraph just how fast technological advancements are reshaping the entire scientific ecosystem and just how close the space economy is to really taking off—one of the articles went from science fiction to science fact in just the few short weeks following the ASCEND launch.

 

In the article, the fictional LEOPOL (Low Earth Orbit Police) warned of fraudsters misrepresenting the capabilities of quantum teleportation—at the time of the article, a still-futuristic form of telecommunications that relied on the ability of sub-atomic particles to interact instantaneously over infinite distances. Or, simply put—occupying two places at the same time, through a process called quantum entanglement.

 

And while, quantum teleportation for instantaneous deep space communication is believed to still be a long way off, it just enabled Google’s new quantum computer to achieve, “quantum supremacy” by solving a complex problem in just 200 seconds that would’ve required the nation’s most sophisticated super computers more than 10,000 years to decipher.

 

Quantum supremacy is described as the moment quantum computers are able to solve equations impossible by classical computing.

 

Up until this extraordinary breakthrough, it was widely believed we’d neared the limits of “Moore’s law,” the observation that the number of transistors on a microchip doubles every two years due to technological advancements in transistors and integrated circuits, allowing us pack ever more computational power into increasingly smaller spaces. As microchips entered subatomic particle proportions, nearly 500 times smaller than the average cell in a human body, many questioned just how much more room for growth could be achieved within the microscopic microchips.

 

Traditionally, supercomputers relied on bits and bytes for their computational abilities. A bit, or binary digit, is the smallest unit used by a computer, being either a 0 or a 1, read by a computer to mean either true or false. A byte is simply a grouping of eight bits, each with two values (true or false), for a total of 256 different values per byte.

 

Quantum computing, on the other hand, relies on the qubit (quantum bit) as its smallest unit of measure. Like bits, Qubits are binary, 2-state systems—but what differentiates them is that they are physical objects, capable of reflecting any physical property of an atom (spin, polarization, magnetic field, etc..). Unlike a bit that’s two states can only be true (0) or false (1), the atom-like nature of a qubit’s two states means it can be true (0), false (2), or true and false, or any proportion between the two, in a phenomenon known as superposition.

 

Superposition allows quantum computers to extrapolate data exponentially faster than classical machines. Imagine being able to entertain every conceivable outcome of a problem nearly instantaneously. While in traditional computing, 4 bits have 16 possible combinations from which only one can be used, in quantum computing, 4 qubits also produce 16 combinations, but unlike bits, all its combinations and their permutations can be used simultaneous—vastly expanding processing capacity and speed.

 

The results are computers that can store and process unconceivably large amounts of data in a near instant. They’ll be able to tackle complex concepts impossible in classical computing, modeling complex chemical and chain reactions will be possible, with incredible precision and accuracy. The answer to mysteries that, just months ago, were many eons away will be discoverd daily.

 

While the advent of the assembly line and the industrial revolution, the combustion engine and air travel, and the internet and the information age were truly transformative and revolutionary events—the age of quantum reality will be more like a coup d’ etat in its total disruption of the status quo.