Where to Start in Quantum Computing

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CTO’s and CIO’s need to put another technology on their need-to-know list. With recent advances in quantum computing, we have an obligation to understand how it may impact our companies and careers. This turns out to be a daunting task, especially for those of us who didn’t come from a physics background. While some fields can be understood quickly with a sprint through a few topic summaries, quantum computing is guaranteed to be a long distance slog.

There are those who say we may never fully understand quantum theory. But that hasn’t deterred physicists from putting the theory to work in diverse ways. Beginning in the 1980’s, physicists including Richard Feynman asked whether computing devices could be built that leveraged quantum characteristics to perform computations in new ways. The answer appears to be “yes”.

I’ve taken a few swings at trying to comprehend this domain and wandered down more than a few dead ends. Recently, though, I’ve come across some texts that make the journey a little more fun and a little easier to understand. In hopes of making the path easier for others, here are some books I can recommend to get started:

1) “Introducing Quantum Theory, A Graphic Guide” by J.P. McEvoy and Oscar Zarate

This may seem at first to be frivolous, but it is a fun way to understand the epic history of a field that has occupied the greatest minds on the planet. Read it at least twice. And don’t be surprised if you gain a few fresh insights (in my case, the photoelectric effect and Schrodinger wave equation).

2) “Great Ideas in Physics” by Alan Lightman

If you have time, read the whole book. If you’re in a hurry, go straight to Chapter IV. Here I found my clearest understanding to-date of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.

3) “Quantum Computing for Computer Scientists” by N.S Yanofsky and M.A. Mannucci

After building a general context with the first two texts, this is where you dig into the details of quantum computing. I continue to work my way through this text, and appreciate the approach of the authors. They frame the content using mathematics approachable for most students of computer science.

4) “Quantum Computing, A Gentle Introduction” by Eleanor Rieffel and Wolfgang Polak

For the mathematicians and physicists in the group, you may be more at home in this text. From my perspective, I would have substituted “Rigorous” for “Gentle” in the title. But this is a well received and well written text. At the very least, it serves as a reference for deeper insights.

 

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