A Guide to Learning Quantum Computing

Note: This article was written by Miranda Scardina

Why is quantum computing important? 📖

Google, IBM, and others are investing in Quantum Computing. People may have heard about quantum computing and quantum mechanics, but for many, the extent of their knowledge is limited to google searches and textbook definitions.

Quantum theories and their uses are new and mysterious fields that are said to hold innumerable potential for future innovations if we can master it. There are dedicated experimental quantum scientists who are working on this as I write.

Some amazing things are already starting to be developed due to advancements in the fields. I am just starting my journey into Quantum Computing and am excited to share my initial takeaways to anyone interested in learning more about this fascinating field.

Why learn about quantum computing? 🤔

As a sophomore in high school, some may think starting so early would be futile, but I disagree. As a student in a quantum computing year-long course, I’ve seen the benefits in teaching these concepts early to those who desire to learn Quantum Computing and the importance of early exposure to students who desire to further advance the field. In short, a win-win situation.

Quantum Computing research and concepts are exciting and new, but they are hard to grasp even for the professionals working on directing the powerful tech into different causes. Quantum Computing requires a strong foundation in Calculus and above, probability, and physics, so if you don’t find these subjects particularly interesting, quantum may just not be for you. For those of you who are interested, however, this blog will explain some basics of quantum, some of its field branches, and how to go more in-depth into learning about it.

What is quantum computing? 🤷‍♀

Quantum Computing is computing using quantum mechanic theories and principles.

Classical computing uses classical bits. As coders, the binary nature of this bit is well understood by most.

The base of Quantum computing is the qubit, the quantum version of a classical computing bit. The way a qubit differs from a classical bit is that a classical computing bit can measure either 0 or 1, while a qubit can be both 0 and 1 at the same time.

A way to visualize this is with the famous example that’s used often in my class: “Schrodinger’s cat”, a thought process experiment by Austrian-Irish physicist named Erwin Schrödinger in 1935. Essentially, the idea is that a cat is placed in a box with poison, and the poison has exactly a 50% chance of breaking open. The cat being alive or not represents the qubit, as we can’t know the state of the cat until we open up the box (again, just a thought process). When the box is closed, this is a good way to imagine how technically, the cat is both dead and alive at the same time.

We can only know which state a qubit collapses to if we find it’s superposition, which is the state that a qubit collapses to when measured based on probability.

The states of a qubit can be represented as vectors, and altered with the use of matrix operators. With Superposition and another concept, Entanglement, Quantum Computers can compute much faster than a classical computer. You can see why such a great understanding of math, probability and physics is necessary now, huh?

What should I focus on learning? 🖥

The main concepts I would recommend getting a grasp of before diving into quantum is vectors, matrices/linear algebra, and the unit circle(ugh I know). If these concepts are known before starting it greatly increases comprehension of the ideas of quantum mechanics and quantum computing and it will make the process of learning the math concepts behind the code much smoother.

What are some other resources I can turn to? 🔗

Quantum Computing sources to look at if this is piquing your interest are out there, even for the young as I am doing some now.

  1. There is a great course from The Coding School and right now I am enrolled in their Quantum Computing course by Qubit x Qubit.
  2. IBM has a great IBM Q Experience where I have gotten to write out algorithms.
  3. Recently, Strangeworks has opened up their Quantum Ecosystem, where free membership to their Quantum Computing site provides lots of resources for the new, mid and advanced quantum developer. https://quantumcomputing.com.
  4. Here’s a video that further explains some aspects of Quantum in a fun way!
  5. Google’s quantum research. There are different programming languages found with different companies.

For example, Qiskit at IBM, Q# at Microsoft, and CIRQ at Google. All of the sites are a great place to look for information on learning about Quantum Computing and there are communities of quantum learners, explorers, experimenters, professionals, and experts that can be found online and they’re growing in numbers.

Still in its early stages, if this field interests you, it’s the young that will be driving it to maturation. You’re never too young to start learning something new, and that includes starting to understand quantum concepts!

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