Inca knots inspire the quantum computer

We see data storage as a modern problem, but even ancient civilizations kept records. While much of the world used stone tablets or other mediums that have not survived the centuries, the Incas used something called quipu which encoded digital data into strings using knots. Now the old number recording system has inspired a new way encode qubits in a quantum computer.

With quipu, the nodes of a chain represent a number. By analogy, a conventional qubit would be like using a string to form a 0 or 1 shape on a table. A breeze or other “noise” would easily upset your equation. But the knots stay tied even if you pick up the ropes and move them. The new qubits are the same, encoding data in the topology of the material.

In practice, the Quantinuum H1 processor uses 10 ytterbium ions trapped by pulsed lasers according to a Fibonacci sequence. If you think of a conventional qubit as a one-dimensional affair – the qubit state – this new system acts like a two-dimensional system, where the second dimension is time. This is easier to build than conventional 2D quantum structures, but offers at least some of the same inherent error resilience.

Actual paper is chargeable at Nature. Although the technique is exotic, it makes you realize that there is still a lot to be done with quantum computers and just like today’s conventional computers don’t use mercury tubes, cores and delay lines , the quantum computers of tomorrow are likely to be very different. than those we have today.

This isn’t the first time people have tried to create topological qubits, but the last time we noticed this effort there were experimental issues. Want to hang out on a quantum computer? You can access the virtual ones. Or you can even use real ones on the network.

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