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Research conducted in the last few decades has established that quantum information,
or information based on quantum mechanics, has capabilities that exceed
those of traditional “classical” information. For example, in communication, quantum
information enables quantum cryptography, which is a method for communicating in
secret. Secrecy is guaranteed because eavesdropping attempts necessarily disturb the
exchanged quantum information without revealing the content of the communication.
In computation, quantum information enables efficient simulation of quantum physics, a
task for which general-purpose, efficient, classical algorithms are not known to exist.
Quantum information also leads to efficient algorithms for factoring large numbers, which
is believed to be difficult for classical computers. An efficient factoring algorithm would
break the security of commonly used public-key cryptographic codes used for authenticating
and securing Internet communications. Yet another application of quantum information
improves the efficiency with which unstructured search problems can be solved.
Quantum unstructured search may make it possible to solve significantly larger instances
of optimization problems, such as the scheduling and traveling salesman problems.
Because of the capabilities of quantum information, the science of quantum information
processing is now a prospering, interdisciplinary field focused on better understanding
the possibilities and limitations of the underlying theory, on developing new
applications of quantum information, and on physically realizing controllable quantum
devices. The purpose of this primer is to provide an elementary introduction to quantum
information processing (see Part II), and then to briefly explain how we hope to exploit
the advantages of quantum information (see Part III). These two sections can be read
independently. For reference, we have included a glossary of the main terms of quantum
information (see page 33)