By Pete Jesson
I met Dr. Sydney at a Houston symposium for computing while investigating a case that was going slow. Wanting to use my spare time wisely, I moseyed on over to a 5-day conference on the future of computing, especially in the afternoon when Doctor’s Sydney and Rochelle were speaking. I had heard about the theory of quantum computing around the millennium but thought it was many decades off. The theory was a bit wild, as was the research from what I read. Dr. Sydney changed my mind on the matter in just a few hours and I was excited to think about the possibilities of this type of computing power, but then again…
Being an engineer, I was fascinated by some of the theories that both Sydney and Rochelle were hinting at, while sitting with my new, slow laptop. For those not in the know, our computers do the computation digitally, with billions of tiny transistors. All data is actually a binary bit, a 0 or 1. The computational power used to translate the data to something useful and recognizable to us humans. Quantum computing uses an entirely different process to compute. Not to get too detailed in quantum physics, sufficient to say that the mechanism called quantum superposition and qubits are a huge leap in potential computing power.
I was mesmerized by Sydney. He continually hinted that quantum computing was within reach of present technology, citing machines like the experimental D-Wave this year. On the front of it, science put off this technology to the far future, calling the theory in its infancy. Dr. Sydney said, “The speed of computations offered by a quantum computer is obvious. Take a computer password cracking program that a group may try use to break into a system for instance. A highly cryptic password may be nearly impossible to crack, taking many months or more. What takes our most powerful computer a year could be done in seconds with quantum computing power.” Amazing stuff I thought as the speech ended. I waited for his talk to end and was surprised that no one went up to speak with him. I took the opportunity to introduce myself. “Hello Dr. Sydney, my name is Pete Jesson, an engineer by trade and a private investigator by fate.” He got a good chuckle from that.
“You have a Bostonian accent Pete?” he replied.
“I’m from Boston doctor but running around the wild west, looking for a missing scientist right now.” We made small talk for a while and I could tell he was most anxious to continue his talk on quantum computing and I let him. “You see Pete, the biggest challenge is the phenomenon of quantum decoherence,” he went on to say, “and using lasers instead of conventional circuitry is necessary.”
“I think I understand doctor, please continue.”
“We have the technology for a focused low intensity laser beam, yet it scatters due to the laws of nature in computing if you will. If we can get around this problem, quantum computing will be possible.” Laser beams would carry the data at light speed, replacing wires and their problems like resistance and corrosion. Dr. Rochelle had packed up everything and had now joined us in the conversation. Dr. Sidney went a bit starry-eyed saying, “Just think, one could collect every piece of data transmitted and perhaps store it for instance!” Just as he was going to say more, Dr. Rochelle interjected with a fake cough. Too late doc, I thought, checking my smile, I’m a detective. I had a quick flashback to our case, It’s a Gas, where Edward Zigfreid invented a high powered gas laser and subsequently disappeared for almost a decade. Then, out of the blue I said to the doctor, “as low powered the lasers are in a system like that, the advantage of much less circuitry and light speed communications are certainly worth the challenge of solving erratic laser pulsed quantum gates doctor.” I really don’t know where that came from it obviously impressed the doctor who nodded.
Then Sydney asked, “Have you ever held a clearance Pete?”
“Yes, several of them. Why doctor?” I asked curiously.
“I’m heading northwest and perhaps we could meet again?” Sydney said, handing me his card.
“I’d be happy to doctor,” I replied.
“We’ve had some security issues at the lab, and a colleague recently was killed in an accident and perhaps you and your Dad could help with something like this? I nodded, seeing a little desperation on the good doctor’s face. I wondered where a quantum computer lab would be if it wasn’t at a university. We were both getting tired and I asked the doctor how far away we were from a working quantum computer. “A few ye —,” catching Dr. Rochelle’s blink, he continued, “a decade maybe, if we can solve some of these other problems.” I wondered how close we really were to such computational power and what we would do with it. With a promise to meet again, we both left. On the drive back to the hotel, I decided to put out a query to my science and math buddies and find out who and where they may be doing serious research in quantum computing. I went back in the hotel and Dad was talking but I wasn’t listening too much, my mind still on Sydney’s comments.
“I hear you Dad, so are we done with this case?”
“Yea, why, do you have another case for us out here?” Dad wanted to go to Tucson to see and old friend and investigate a case we ended up calling, Orbiting Orbs, but I wanted to meet Dr. Sydney again.
“Maybe.” Poor Dad, he was just getting used to using a new, top of the line, laptop, now he’ll have to make a quantum leap, I thought. “We’ve been invited to a quantum computer research facility, are you ready to go?” Hot on the trail of the missing Dr Higgenbottom and Merle Rollins, his answer amazed me. “You’re not getting us into another quantum entanglement, are you son?”