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Quantum Computers Could Tackle Enormous Linear Equations


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Aram Harrow of the University of Bristol in England along with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Avinatan Hassidim and Seth Lloyd believe that encoding large datasets of linear equations in quantum forms will enable quantum computers to quickly solve problems with billions or even trillions of variables. The team's new quantum algorithm could potentially enable quantum computers to be used for a wider range of applications.

Complex processes such as image and video processing, genetic analyses, and Internet traffic control require enormous linear equations. "Solving these gigantic equations is a really huge problem," Lloyd says. "Even though there are good algorithms for doing it, it still takes a very long time." A classical computer might need at least 100 trillion steps to solve a problem with a trillion variables, while the newly proposed algorithm would enable a quantum computer to solve the problem in a few hundred steps, according to the researchers. They plan to test the algorithm in the lab by having a quantum computer solve a set of linear equations with four variables, among other problems.

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