Science fiction uses scientific language as a form of artistic expression. With that in mind, today’s post is part of a series here on Planet Pailly called Sciency Words. Every Friday, I’ll bring you a new and interesting scientific word to help us all expand our scientific vocabularies together. Today’s word is:
The spelling of this word drives me bonkers. It’s pronounced “Q-bit.” There’s no need for that “u.” Just replace it with a hyphen, and no one would be confused about the pronunciation. Unfortunately, the spelling “qubit” has been around long enough already that it’s unlikely to change.
Anyway… qubits are the bits of quantum computers. Where a bit in a regular computer stores information as either a 0 or a 1, a qubit takes advantage of the weird and wacky laws of quantum mechanics to store information as a 0, a 1, or as a 0 and 1 at the same time.
To put it another way, regular computers think in terms of yes or no. A quantum computer can think in terms of yes, no, or maybe. This allows quantum computers to do multiple simultaneous calculations, making them much faster than those simple minded, binary code machines we already know and love.
At the moment, quantum computers are still in development, and they’re only useful for specific, highly complex calculations. But sooner or later, these things with all their strange, little qubits will be coming to a desktop near you, and then you’ll all get to share my frustration with this awkwardly spelled word. Presumably by then we’ll also have to learn how to say qubytes, kiloqubytes, megaqubytes, and so on.
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Did you already know this word? If so, please share another sciency word in the comments below. That way, we can all keep expanding our sciency vocabularies together!