Tag Archives: engineering

Quantum computers are among us: update

In July, I wrote a post on the basics of quantum computation and the current state of the art. This field offers the promise of drastic improvements over our current computers, particularly in the ways they can factor large numbers. (That sounds dull, but it’s critical to modern cryptography, among other things.) Though quantum computers are not yet close to being cost-effective, their future is rapidly evolving from science fiction to science fact.

The development of real-world quantum computers relies on overcoming two challenges. The first is scientific: given the limitations of physics, is quantum computation possible? What sorts of calculations can be done with it, and how can the technique best be applied?

The second challenge is from the engineering standpoint; true quantum computers require atom-level precision and accuracy in the creation of the qubits. While current transistors in silicon-based chips are just reaching 22 nm in size, atoms themselves are a hundred times smaller. Truly controlling the positions of individual atoms on a surface might have, at one time, seemed an enormous hurdle to manufacturing quantum computers.

A social revolution in the College of Engineering? Just maybe.

Courtesy californiawatch.orgLast November, a rather inciting petition was circulated among the women and minority student groups of UC Berkeley. Directed at the leadership of the College of Engineering (COE), the petition demanded marked improvements in the College’s social climate and a massive overhaul of the failing recruitment and retention plans aimed specifically at women and minority graduate students (also termed “underrepresented engineers” or simply UEs).

What follows is the recent social history of the COE, how the student-led petition came to be, where the COE’s efforts to enact change currently stand, and our prospects for meaningful social change in the near future.