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104 Copublished by the IEEE CS and the AIP 1521-9615/07/$25.00 © 2007 IEEE C OMPUTING IN S CIENCE & E NGINEERING T H E L A S T W O R D operation on qubits is a rotation. Combine the rotations, and you have logic gates. Combine the logic gates, and you have algorithms. In principle, these algorithms can perform cal- culations far beyond classical computing’s conceivable reach. But to wield that power, you need an actual quantum com- puter, and building one has proved impossible. Qubits live in small, cold enclaves within the classical macroworld. When heat and other environmental disturbances inevitably intrude, they rob a quantum system of its coherence, its en- tanglement, and its ability to compute. So beguiling is the potential of quantum computers that rather than putting people off, the difficulty of building one has assumed the qualities of a mythical quest. Like Jason’s for the Golden Fleece, the quest for a quantum computer is hard and long. To sustain it, the champions of quantum computing ap- peal not to Olympian gods but to terrestrial funding agencies.
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