In 1981, Richard Feynman, probably the most famous physicist of his time asked the question: “Can we simulate physics on a computer?” At the time the answer was “theoretically yes,” but practically not at that time. Today, we may be on the verge of answering “yes” in practice to Feynman’s original question. Quantum computers operate in such a strange way and are so radically different from today’s computers that it requires some understanding of quantum mechanics and bizarre properties like “quantum entanglement.” Quantum computers are in a realm orders of magnitude beyond today’s supercomputers and their application in specific computational problems like cryptography, Big Data analysis, computational fluid dynamics (CFD), and sub-atomic physics will change our World. Canadian quantum computing company, D-Wave Systems has been at the center of Google’s efforts to pioneer this technology.

Advertisements

In the late 1990’s, I participated in the creation of the “point-to-point tunneling protocol” (PPTP) with engineers at Microsoft and Cisco Systems, now an Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) industry standard. PPTP is the technical means for creating the “virtual private networks” we use at UBC, by encrypting “open” Internet packets with IPSEC 128 bit code, buried in public packets. It was an ingenious solution enabling private Internet traffic that we assumed would last for a very long time. It was not to be, as we now know. Most disturbing, in the 1990’s the US Congress debated giving the government the key to all encryption, which was resoundingly defeated. Now, the NSA appears to have illegally circumvented this prohibition and cracked encryption anyway. But this discussion is not about the political, legal and moral issues, which are significant. In this post I am more interested in “so now what do we do?” There may be an answer on the horizon, and Canada is already a significant participant in the potential solution.