A number of commentaries on the future of computing, written by leading scientists, has appeared on Nature.
In the last two decades advances in computing technology, from processing speed to network capacity and the internet, have revolutionized the way scientists work. From sequencing genomes to monitoring the Earth's climate, many recent scientific advances would not have been possible without a parallel increase in computing power - and with revolutionary technologies such as the quantum computer edging towards reality, what will the relationship between computing and science bring us over the next 15 years?
The list of freely accessible commentaries:
- Champing at the bits (about quantum computers)
- Milestones in scientific computing
- Everything, everywhere
- Exceeding human limits
- The creativity machine
- Science in an exponential world
- Can computers help explain biology?
- A two-way street to science's future
The titles are pretty much self explanatory, with the exception of the first one.
The first one is about quantum computers. Here's a little quote from the article:
Five years ago, if you'd have asked anyone working in quantum computing how long it would take to make a genuinely useful machine, they'd probably have said it was too far off even to guess. But not any longer.
"A useful computer by 2020 is realistic," says Andrew Steane of the quantum-computing group at the University of Oxford, UK. David Deutsch, the Oxford physicist who more or less came up with the idea of quantum computation, agrees. Given recent theoretical advances, he is optimistic that a practical quantum computer "may well be achieved within the next decade".
A quantum simulator would describe and predict the structure and reactivity of molecules and materials by accurately capturing their fundamental quantum nature. This is the sort of employment the early machines are likely to find: doing calculations of interest to chemists, materials scientists and possibly molecular biologists, says Steane.
Since quantum computers can solve exponential problems in seconds that would take a conventional computer billions of years, they are very useful in running simulations of molecular interactions such as the ones going on in our bodies.
This is very important. Simulations are one of the holy grails of medicinal science.
The more accurate and faster our simulations are, the easier it will be to come up with new drugs, solve health problems, and find useful genetic modifications to upgrade the human body a bit.