Over the years I encountered different explanations of quantum computing advantage over classical computers. But I am not sure which explanations are in fact valid and which are not.

  1. Quantum computer utilizes parallelism. It tries to arrive to the solution by multiple ways in parallel, which saves the time needed to find the right way.

  2. Quantum computer can leap to the correct solution. It can tunnel through potential barriers on the solution landscape to a global maximum or minimum.

  3. Quantum computer can go back and forward in time, repeating the calculation with different data. It is claimed that if the result is wrong, the quantum computer in a sense "reverts time", discarding the result and repeats the calculation with different options using the same time interval.

  4. Quantum computer can manipulate quantities of information below 1 bit independently. For instance, if you have 100 variables 1/100 of a bit each, on classical computer you still need 100 bits to store them all, while on quantum computer you can store all these variables in 1 bit.

  5. Quantum computer utilizes faster-than-light speed to transfer quantum information during calculation. It is claimed that quantum information can be transferred faster than light unlike classical information.

Please tell me, which of these interpretations are correct and which are not.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Can you name a source or two for each of these? Two of these are fairly common to hear, but some of them I can't really believe are ever offered as any sort of well-informed attempt to explain quantum computing. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 2, 2019 at 20:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is a nice collection of common misunderstandings :) A somewhat accurate explanation is that a quantum computer uses the effect of interference in a very high dimensional space. But to understand it and use it you need to go through the math. $\endgroup$
    – Danylo Y
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 9:04
  • $\begingroup$ @DanyloY: following on my comment above, I would say that one or two of these are totally unlikely to be 'common' misunderstandings. I'm not saying that the OP just made them up, but I'd like to know who is saying these sorts of things. (Are these actually the result of well-intentioned attempts by an expert to explain something difficult, or are they the sorts of folk theories that people tend to come up with whenever they're trying to understand something with very little information?) If you know of sources for these, from attempts by experts to explain quantum computing, please tell us. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 10:50
  • $\begingroup$ @NieldeBeaudrap, well, maybe the word $common$ is too strong. I don't think there are such sources, except some internet discussions of tech people that are not scientists. I think those guesses are somewhat reasonable for people who have a very little information of the actual things :) $\endgroup$
    – Danylo Y
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 11:00
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @DanyloY: It might be reasonable to expect people to make such guesses, but that makes this question (by definition) a matter of speculative physics... $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 15:55

1 Answer 1


1 and 2 have elements of truth, but are only partially correct, with big caveats.

3 and 5 are complete nonsense.

You can choose to read 4 the right way to make some sense out of it, but it doesn’t contribute to the computational speed of any algorithms.

  • $\begingroup$ How would you suggest that 4 can be interpreted to make some sense? $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 2, 2019 at 23:50
  • $\begingroup$ @NieldeBeaudrap In the sense that you can encode an infinite amount of information on a qubit by specifying the Bloch vector to arbitrary accuracy. Of course that doesn’t help with processing because you cannot extract that information. $\endgroup$
    – DaftWullie
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 7:10
  • $\begingroup$ Okay. Of course, that doesn't make for a very good concept of information 'storage'. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 8:11

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