quantum view markdown

Some very limited notes on quantum computing

  • what does physics tell us about the limits of computers?
  • NP - can check soln in polynomial time
  • NP-hard - if solved, solves every NP
  • NP-complete - NP hard and in NP
  • church-turing thesis $\implies$ turing machine polynomial time should be best possible in the universe
    • physics could allow us to do better than a turing machine
  • examples
    • glass plates with soapy water - forms minimum steiner tree
    • can get stuck in local optimum
    • ex. protein folding
    • ex. relativity computer
      • leave computer on earth, travel at speed of light for a while, come back and should be done
      • if you want exponential speedup, need to get exponentially close to speed of light (requires exponential energy)
    • ex. zeno’s computer - run clock faster (exponentially more cooling = energy)


  • An n-bit computer has 2^n states and is in one of them with probability 1. You can think of it as having 2^n coefficients, one of which is 0 and the rest of which are 1. Operations on it are multiplying these coefficients by stochastic matrices. Only produces n bits of info.
  • an n-qubit quantum computer is described by 2^n complex coefficients. The sum of their squares sums to 1. It’s 2^n complex coefficients must be multiplied by unitary matrices (they preserve that the sum of the squares add up to 1.)
  • Problem: Decoherence – results from interaction with the outside world
  • Properties:
    • Superposition – an object is in more than one state at once
      • Has a percentage of being in both states
    • Entanglement – 2 particles behave exactly the opposite – instantly

storing qubits

  • Fullerenes – naturally found in Precambrian rock, reasonable for storing qubits – can store
    • not developed, but some experiments have shown ability to store qubits for milliseconds


  • probability with minus signs
  • amplitudes - used to calculate probabilites, but can be negative / complex

  • applications
    • quantum simulation
    • also could factor integers in polynomial time (shor 1994)
    • scaling up is hard because of decoherence= interaction between cubits and outside world
    • error-correcting codes can make it so we can still work with some decoherence
  • algorithms
    • paths that lead to wrong answer - quantum amplitudes cancel each other out
    • for right answer, quantum amplitudes in phase (all positive or all negative)
    • prime factorization is NP but not NP complete
    • unclear that quantum can solve all NP problems
    • Grover’s algorithm - with quantum computers, something like you can only use sqrt of number of steps
    • adiabatic optimization - like quantum simulated annealing, maybe can solve NP-complete problems
  • dwave - company made ~2000 cubit machine
    • don’t maintain coherence well
    • algorithms for NP-complete problems may not work
    • hope: quantum tunneling can get past local maximum in polynomial time maybe
      • empircally unclear if this is true
  • quantum supremacy - getting quantum speedup for something, maybe not something useful

maxwell’s demon

  • second law of thermodynamics: entropy is always increasing
  • hot things transfer heat to cold things
    • temperature is avg kinetic energy - particles follow a diistribution of temperature
  • separate 2 samples (one hot, one cold) with insulator
    • idea: demon makes all fast particles go to hot side, all slow particles go to slow side - this is against entropy
    • demon controls door between the samples
      • demon opens door whenever high temperature particle comes from cold sample, then closes
      • demon opens door for slow particles from hot sample, then closes
  • problem: demon has to track all the particles (which would generate a lot of heat)

quantum probability

  • based on this blog post

    • marginal prob. loses information but we don’t need to
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