More things to make you dizzy

Niels Bohr, the father of quantum physics, once said that if studying quantum mechanics doesn't make you dizzy, you haven't understood it properly. Break out the seasick pills, this bizarre field of science is going to take its rightful place in the world of e-business.

Quantum computing is itself a bizarre concept that involves strange things like teleportation, particles being in more than one place at a time, and changing the behavior of a particle just by looking at it. I won't even begin to try to explain the details of it in this space.

Of course, at the present time, nobody really knows how to build a quantum computer. But when they do figure it out, it will change computing at its very core. In ordinary computing, everything is expressed in zeros and ones, but in quantum computing, which uses photonic "qubits" instead of electronic bits, it's a whole different story, since a photon can have one of four different orientations.

Today, e-business has taken hold because computers have gotten faster, safer, and more pervasive. Companies regularly conduct transactions using applications that run over the Internet, and despite the presence of nasty viruses and the occasional hacker, we feel pretty good about it. Generally speaking, it's safe. Safer than walking across town carrying a bagful of money and company secrets, anyway.

When it comes down to it, e-business has flourished mainly because of advances in Internet security that have made it possible to conduct business electronically without fear of intrusion.

Obviously, the current state of affairs is not perfect, but because the risk is small, we still choose to conduct business electronically. Quantum computing will all but eliminate that risk entirely. Quantum cryptography holds out the promise for the greatest amount of security possible, offering encryption that would be virtually unbreakable. Current encryption is hard to break, and if the "secret key" is long enough, it could take hundreds of computers several months to break. But computers get more powerful, and today's "unbreakable" will be tomorrow's "safe enough for routine data." Inevitably, faster computers will be developed that will be able to break larger and larger keys. Quantum cryptography overcomes this problem. A quantum cryptographic system could not be broken through sheer firepower, because it does not protect a message through mathematics, but through the laws of physics. The fact that a hacker may have a faster computer, or even a hundred faster computers, would be irrelevant. When that happens, e-business will take a giant leap forward.

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