In March, the multinational corporation Lockheed Martin announced it would become the first company to use a quantum computer for commercial purposes. Then a couple weeks ago, the makers of Lockheed’s device, Vancouver’s D-Wave, landed another big customer: Google (observers put the purchase price at around $15 million). Finally, for the press freakout hat-trick, we also saw the release of a scientific study conducted by Catherine McGeoch, professor of computer science at Amherst College, that showed D-Wave’s machines significantly outperformed classical computers. These developments led to some pretty feverish claims in the press like this Daily Mail gem dug up by the New Yorker‘s Gary Marcus calling Google’s purchase a “a superfast quantum computer that could cure diseases, stop global warming and even learn to drive a car.”
Scientists say quantum computers could one day operate a million times faster than conventional computers. Unlike the computers we keep on our desks and in our pockets, which rely on bits representing 0s and 1s, quantum computers rely on quantum bits or qubits. Qubits can be in both the 0 and 1 position simultaneously, allowing them to perform many functions at once. But how do they work exactly? And how close are we to putting them in homes and offices around the world? This week PandoDaily and Explainer Music will release a special interactive story that looks to answer these questions. In advance of that, here’s a preview of what’s to come: a video we made compiling clips of physicists and futurists describing how quantum computing works (all set to a funk beat, naturally).