Quantum computers are still years away, but a trio of theorists has already figured out at least one talent they may have. According to the theorists, including one from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), physicists might one day use quantum computers to study the inner workings of the universe in ways that are far beyond the reach of even the most powerful conventional supercomputers.
Quantum computers require technology that may not be perfected for decades, but they hold great promise for solving complex problems. The switches in their processors will take advantage of quantum mechanics – the laws that govern the interaction of subatomic particles. These laws allow quantum switches to exist in both on and off states simultaneously, so they will be able to consider all possible solutions to a problem at once.
This unique talent, far beyond the capability of today's computers, could enable quantum computers to solve some currently difficult problems quickly, such as breaking complex codes. But they could look at more challenging problems as well.