Quantum computing and quantum physics sound like science fiction features: everything is made up of waves and particles, matter can be present in the same place at the same time, and particles can be sent across the galaxy but remain connected.
Crazy? Yes. Science Fiction No more.
This Decrypt article explores what quantum computers are and what kind of threats they present to the cryptoactive industry.
Scientists and researchers are beginning to harness the power of quantum physics to develop powerful computers with the ability to crack the world's encryption algorithms.
Beyond just blockchains, quantum computing can threaten the security of the global financial system, top secret intelligence agencies, as well as all the data on your cell phone.
what is quantum physics
Also known as quantum mechanics, quantum physics is a type of physics that only applies to things that are small enough for its rules to apply.
In classical physics, almost everything behaves predictably (calculations and measurements can be exact). When you start studying objects the size of quantum physics, everything becomes a lot more unpredictable.
Measurements and calculations in quantum physics are not guaranteed to be accurate (they can only be estimated using probabilities).
At the quantum level, particles can start to behave like waves and even change state suddenly, depending on whether or not they are being observed. In the quantum realm, everything is uncertain.
What is a quantum computer?
By taking advantage of the laws of quantum mechanics, quantum computers can be exponentially more powerful than our most advanced modern computers.
The most important issue to understand about quantum computers is quantum bits or qubits. A classic computer uses bits, which are represented by zeros and ones.
Normal bits are binary (on or off), one state at a time. Qubits can be a zero, a one, vary between them, or be both at the same time.
Since the basic units of quantum computers are these seemingly magical qubits, quantum computers can perform functions or calculations at a rate that ordinary computers don't even come close to (which is why, one day, they might break cryptoactive encryption).
Here's an example: if we have four bits of a normal computer, they could be in any of 16 combinations (1,000, 1,100, 1,110), but you can only choose them to be in one when performing a calculation.
However, with four qubits, they can be in all 16 positions at once, and the number grows exponentially the more qubits you add.
Just 20 qubits can store over a million values in parallel, which allows a quantum computer to be able to deal with a problem by performing calculations in parallel instead of one at a time.
Who Invented Quantum Physics
The idea of quantum mechanics dates back to research in the 19th century by Max Planck, considered to be the father of quantum theory.
Quantum computers emerged in the 1970s and 1980s when Paul Benioff proved that it was possible to develop a computer that operated under the laws of quantum physics.
What's so special about quantum computing
Since a qubit can migrate between states (whether it's a “one”, “zero” or be in multiple states at the same time), qubits can do multiple computations in parallel or simultaneously.
Qubits allow quantum computers to process complex calculations so quickly that, while an ordinary computer would take half a billion years to solve Bitcoin cryptography, a quantum computer could solve it in less than ten minutes .
“The exact physical mechanism working inside the quantum computer is somewhat theoretically complex and intuitively disturbing. Generally, it is explained in terms of the multiworld interpretation of quantum physics, in which the computer performs calculations not only in our universe, but also in other universes, simultaneously ”, says Andrew Zimmerman Jones , author of the book “ String Theory for Dummies ” (or “String Theory for Dummies”).
How are quantum computers made?
Traditional computers are basically filled with millions of little switches that manage the flow of electrons.
As we lower these passageways to the subatomic level, the ability to control whether or not electricity flows through a passageway becomes…well, a little weird.
Through an idea called “quantum tullenation”, when we reach the subatomic level, electrons can simply skip this passage at will, rendering the machine's ability to manage this flow useless.
As a result, quantum computers are built quite differently.
They work in the weird and amazing world of subatomic particles, where qubits do weird things like being in any of 16 states at the same time, until they're observed when they collapse into one state.
As a result, a "quantum pass", as opposed to a "logical pass", used in traditional computing, goes through a process in which it configures some qubits, applies quantum passages to "interlace" them, manipulating possible probabilities, and then then measuring the result.
Confused? Yes. It's a real mess.
But what you need to understand is that, to get this process under control, Google , for example, is using a special superconducting metal that operates at temperatures eight times colder than space, which are far removed from a computer on a table.
As a result, quantum computers are unlikely to leave a lab anytime soon.
Should You Care About Quantum Computers?
According to smart people like Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin and crypto advocate Andreas Antonopoulos, you still don't need to panic over quantum computers.
According to Antonopoulos, currently, quantum computers are nowhere near deciphering something like Bitcoin.
In theory, quantum computing can break the cryptography that guarantees the security of cryptoactives like Bitcoin and Ethereum, but Buterin argues that quantum computers, like the one advertised by Google, are more proof of concept than fully realized technologies.
Current cryptography used in large blockchains may also be strong enough to withstand existing quantum computers, meaning not all cryptography may be vulnerable.
Quantum computers can be used not only to break cryptography, but also to develop even more powerful cryptography. Upgrade plans are in place for blockchains such as Ethereum to resist quantum computers.
Thinking about the future
Even though we're safe now, the crypto world isn't taking any chances . Quantum-resistant blockchains, such as Praxxis and OAN , are already under development before a possible quantum apocalypse.
Rest assured that even if quantum computers begin to take over the world, our cryptocurrencies will be safe.
*Translated and edited by Daniela Pereira do Nascimento with permission from Decrypt.co .
The post What is quantum computing and how can it affect cryptocurrencies? first appeared in Bitcoin Portal .