Meandering through Crypto – all the way to Ammonia

I confess somedays I look for inspiration in what to write about. It is a difficult thing to make yourself pop up above the parapets of crypto guru’s who each in there own way have stories and news to tell, but man does it shift fast. Today I saw an item on Mark Carney and his latest musings which led to a small headline that talked about the near future and the effect quantum computers could have on crypto and it’s algorithmical security. Is that a word? This is an interesting subject because it in effect could at a stroke undo everything we know about crypto currency and the blockchain and the derivatives thereof. So reading a little about that I then get sidetracked into actually trying to understand what makes quantum computers so different? In essence it is the speed of calculation. This then led to a self help learning period. Following so far? Don’t worry I’m struggling too.

The simple way of looking at it is that computers as we all know now work on a 1’s & 0’s something is either on or off, up or down, left or right, quite easy to grasp. This information stored in these states is

Quantum Computer photo by Connie Zhou/IBM

called a “bit” something everyone has heard of if they use any kind of digital device. In quantum computing you are looking at what really is a bubble a “qubit” with the north pole and south pole being the 1 & 0. But on the surface of the bubble there are perhaps an infinite number of points that a quantum computer can use to store information these are “superpositions”. Add to this little gem something called “entanglement” where qubits exponentially increase speed by “knowing” what the state of other qubits are through quantum physics and you have a quantum computer processor that will speed up causing programs to work faster which enables these computers to solve problems millions of times faster than any current computer. The holy grail of computing.

As things get smaller at a molecular level things do not behave as they do normally this imposes physical limits on computing which means the number of bits limits the speed at which the calculations can be done. Qubits sort this one and this of course led me to quickly looking into how this could be tested because in the end any calculations have to be correct if they are “known” not estimated. It was at this point I ran into the Haber-Bosch process. Which is an almost, currently, insoluble problem in the process of creating ammonia this may be useful to read about the Haber-Bosch process, click it to read more.

If you want to look more into it I also found IBM’s publicly available site where you can actually use their quantum computer, really. Go to this site the IBM Q Experience. Not yet at the 49 or 50 qubits that Google and IBM promised by the end of 2017 but IBM are certainly on track to be first. The upchuck is once these computers are out there then in theory the algorithms used in securing the private keys required to hold you crypto currency “could” be solved as what could take a normal computer hundred or thousands of years will only take a few minutes even seconds on a quantum computer. Suffice to say those interested on the crypto side are already working on a solution but that is another blog.


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