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Quantum Computing’s Sputnik Moment

By KIM BELLARD

General Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently expressed grave concern about China’s reported test of a hypersonic missile: “I don’t know if it’s quite a Sputnik moment, but I think it’s very close to that. It has all of our attention.”  Maybe it should be, but General Milley may have missed the real 21st-century version of a Sputnik moment: China has claimed huge breakthroughs in quantum computing.  

It’s inside baseball to those of us who are neither computer experts nor quantum physicists, but let’s put it this way: the countries/companies that dominate quantum computing will dominate, full stop.  Healthcare included.  

I won’t pretend to understand quantum computers or try to explain how they work, but they’re to “traditional” computers as those computers are to, say, a calculator, or to an abacus.  They’re much faster – like a quantum leap faster – and can quickly do computations that would take even traditional supercomputers centuries to complete, if ever.  For example, think you’ve got an unbreakable code?  Unless you’ve got the fastest quantum computer, think again.  

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