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When Will We Have Quantum Computers? (Audio)

Quantum computers might sound like science fiction. A fully functioning quantum computer could complete calculations in a matter of seconds that would take a conventional computer millions of years to process.

Science fiction or not, they're already here. Scientists at Google, Microsoft, IBM and elsewhere are building and studying them. At this point, they're not very powerful. But Scott Aaronson, a theoretical computer scientist at the University of Texas at Austin, believes in the next few years, one of these teams may achieve something called quantum supremacy—the first demonstration of a quantum computer doing something faster than a conventional computer.

In this episode, Aaronson lays out a timeline of quantum computing advances, explains what kinds of things they'll be able to do and even explore one potential downside—breaking the encryption we use to keep everything from credit card information and medical records private.

UPDATE (7/31/17): Aaronson has been selected as a 2017 Simons Investigator in Theoretical Computer Science by the Simons Foundation for his work in quantum computation. Read more.

Image: The cooling system for Google's superconducting quantum computer

About Point of Discovery

Point of Discovery is a production of the University of Texas at Austin's College of Natural Sciences. You can listen via iTunes, RSS, Stitcher or Google Play Music. Questions or comments about this episode or our series in general? Email Marc Airhart.

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Sunday, 02 October 2022

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Behind every scientific discovery is a scientist (or 12) and a story. “Point of Discovery” takes you on a journey beyond WHAT we know to HOW we know it. Along the way, listeners will meet the sometimes quirky, always passionate people whose curiosity unlocks hidden worlds.


Marc Airhart


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Point of Discovery is part of the Texas Podcast Network, brought to you by The University of Texas at Austin. Podcasts are produced by faculty members and staffers at UT Austin who work with University Communications to craft content that adheres to journalistic best practices. The University of Texas at Austin offers these podcasts at no charge. Podcasts appearing on the network and this webpage represent the views of the hosts, not of The University of Texas at Austin.