In the spring of 1994 a mathematician at Bell Labs named Peter Shor [BS 1981] discovered an algorithm for factoring large numbers with a quantum computer. I got really excited by this, because it moved the boundary separating “easy” problems, which we can eventually expect to solve with advanced technologies, from truly hard problems that we may never be able to solve. There are problems we can solve using quantum physics that we couldn’t solve otherwise. The crucial problem is protecting a quantum computer from the various kinds of “noise” that could destroy quantum entanglement, and we’ve made a lot of progress on that.

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