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The success of the abstract model of computation, in terms of bits, logical operations, algorithms, and programming language constructs makes it easy to forget that computation is a physical process. Our cherished notions of computation and information are grounded in classical mechanics, but the physics of our universe is quantum. A natural question to ask is how computation would change if we adopted a quantum mechanical, instead of a classical mechanical, model of computation. In the early 80s, Richard Feynman, Yuri Manin, and others recognized that certain quantum effect could not be simulated efficiently on conventional computers. This observation led researchers to speculate that perhaps such quantum effect could be used to speed up computation more generally. Slowly, a new picture of computation arose, one that gave rise to a variety of faster algorithms, novel cryptographic mechanisms, and alternative methods of communication. In the first part of the talk, I will introduce key concepts underlying quantum computing and correct misconceptions. In the second part of the talk, I will discuss research being done by NASA's QuAIL group on quantum algorithms, quantum supremacy, elucidating quantum resources for computation, quantum programming and compilation, quantum-inspired classical algorithms, and assessing future applications of quantum computing, all within the broader context of the rapidly evolving field.
Eleanor G. Rieffel leads the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the NASA Ames Research Center, and is a 2020 NASA Ames Associate Fellow. She joined NASA Ames Research Center in 2012 to work on the expanding quantum computing effort. Previously, she performed research in diverse fields at FXPAL, including quantum computation, applied cryptography, image-based geometric reconstruction of 3D scenes, bioinformatics, video surveillance, and automated control code generation for modular robotics. Her research interests include quantum heuristics, evaluation and utilization of near-term quantum hardware, fundamental resources for quantum computation, quantum error mitigation, and applications for quantum computing. She received her Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of California, Los Angeles. She is best known for her 2011 book Quantum Computing: A Gentle Introduction with coauthor Wolfgang Polak and published by MIT press.