Stanley says he can't wait to see "how computers will evolve over the next few years." And to bring on the next level of computer power, he's doing his two bits — er, make that qubits. Qubits are the key to quantum computing. Theoretically, a quantum computer could solve, in a snap, problems so complex that they would tie up the world's biggest supercomputer for decades. Qubits work their magic by exploiting the weird principles of quantum physics. Unlike the electronic bits used today, which are immutably either a 0 or a 1, qubits can simultaneously be both. This means that computing power can scale exponentially. For example, armed with a mere 20 qubits, a quantum computer would be roughly 10 times faster than today's speed champ. But add just two more qubits, and it would be 40 times faster.

However, one hangup has been the need for a better way to couple qubits in pairs. Coupling is essential for quantum logic functions to work dependably. It's how the system would communicate the value of one qubit to another, in the absence of the wires that link transistors today. Under the kinky rules of quantum physics, coupled qubits always have the same value — if one changes, so does the other.

Stanley designed and fabricated a teensy tool for tying quantum knots between qubits, termed entanglement in physics-speak. His tunable transformer does this by adjusting their magnetic fields — tuning each new pair to a different state. To keep pace with a quantum computer's incredible speed, it uses Josephson junctions. These are ultrafast superconducting devices that must be cooled with liquid helium to -452F. That's no problem for quantum computers. They also only work at such cryogenic temperatures. So don't look for quantum computers on desktops anytime soon.


Stanley S. Chiang

John L. Miller-Great Neck North High School
Great Neck, N.Y.

Hobbies: Piano (has performed at Carnegie Recital Hall and Steinway Hall), tennis, chess, and volleyball

Ambition: Physician, computer scientist, or robotics research