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Two developments in quantum computing in the past couple of weeks are the harbingers of a whole new era of smart technology. Google announced that it's building a quantum computer designed by a company called D-Wave in partnership with NASA, and government scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory revealed that they developed a secure quantum computing network two years ago! Get the details about these developments in this episode of SciShow News.

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While I'm here talking to you, I am also at the gym working out and I'm at home watching Cosmos for the 42nd time on Netflix. Okay, I'm not actually doing those last two things because I can't be in more than one place at a time. But we are developing computers that can do that kind of multitasking. With two new developments in quantum computing in the past couple of weeks, we may soon be entering a whole new era of very smart technology. Like I'm talking smarter than SciShow smart. 

*Intro Music*

Quantum Computing (0:31)
If you're up on the technology news, you probably know there is some new advance in computers like every ten minutes. But don't let that distract you from the awesomeness of quantum computing, which uses the principles of quantum physics to let computers try all of the possible solutions to a problem at the same time, and then choose the best one.

Last week, Google announced that it's building a quantum computer designed by a company called D-Wave at NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. And at nearly the same time, government scientists at Los Alamos National Labs in New Mexico revealed that they developed a super secure quantum computing network two years ago. Why was I not informed!

Quantum Computers have been a cool idea since the 1970s, but they've been hard to actually develop because they draw on the concept of quantum mechanics which can be like, ahhh.

One of these concepts is superposition, the idea that a particle, like an electron, can exist in many different theoretical states or configurations at the same time but it can only be observed in one state. 

The Schrödinger's Cat Problem (1:28)
Just like we learned with Schrödinger's Cat, which we've talked about here on SciShow, it can be hard to link together big objects and the quantum objects that make them work together 'cause them seem to obey different laws. It's kind of hard to make a computer obey those laws.

Nevertheless scientists have pulled it off using things like photons as information units instead of traditional bits. While bits can only carry data by assuming a value of either 0 or 1, photons can exist in many states simultaneously, which means they can hold a lot more information. When used as information units those photons get their own special name: qubits.

But the trouble with qubits is another one of the fundamental principle of quantum mechanics. When you actually observe something whether its a particle, or a qubit, or a cat in Schrödinger's box, it can only be in a single state. But while a photon can exist in several states at once and thus hold a ton of data, as soon as somebody tries to read that data, that photon basically becomes either a one or a zero.

Smarts and Security (2:22)
Now this makes quantum computing mighty tricky but it also has some very useful implications because as soon as someone tries to look at a qubit, it basically becomes unreadable which makes it the ultimate in computer security. The challenge then is how do people who are actually allowed to read the quantum information get at it, if you can't read it? The solution seems to be indirect observation. The computer itself interprets the quantum message and turns it into a traditional binary message once the qubits have done their job.

So for the secure communications system that Los Alamos labs invented using quantum computing, this means creating a one-time readable message. Not perfectly secure, but pretty darn safe. And for Google and NASA's computer this means the qubits can run incredibly complicated programs and models very quickly but still give the user a comprehensible binary answer. This seems to be the real potential pay off of quantum computers. Doing really complicated stuff all on their own, learning to tackle many-faceted problems with nuanced returns, analyzing patterns, recognizing shapes and voices, all without help. Like teenagers, but smarter. 

Google and NASA hope that this technology will help lead to huge advances in artificial intelligence. Meanwhile, scientists at Los Alamos think it could be the key to the future of cybersecurity.

The Future is Here (3:34)
In a way, the future is already here. This spring, aerospace company Lockheed Martin bought the very first commercial quantum based computer from D-Wave to help design jet engines in satellite systems. So it could be that in the next decade or so you'll be watching me on a quantum device that's infinitely smarter than the old bit-chomping thing you're using now. It's also possible that I will have just been replaced by one of them. But either way, you'll probably still have to watch the ads.

Thanks for watching SciShow News. If you have any exciting ideas about the future of quantum computers or you just like my outfit, you can let me know on facebook, twitter, or in the comments below. And remember to go to and subscribe.