Qubits and quiet moments

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

I read two articles this week that blew my mind: one was about quantum computing and the other was about mindfulness.

The quantum computing article described a company called D-Wave that has produced a computer (known as the D-Wave 2) costing $10,000,000. The temperature of interstellar space is 80 times warmer than the temperature at which the D-Wave 2 operates and it looks like this:

Tash Friday 21:2:14 2

The article describes how it works in detail but here’s the key part:

Regular computers work with information in bits. Each bit can either be at 1 or 0 at any one time… Now imagine a computer that operates under quantum rules… Its bits could be 1, or 0, or 1 or 0 at the same time.

This means that a computer using quantum bits can do far more calculations than one using regular bits. To be exact, the D-Wave 2, which has 512 quantum bits, could perform 2 to the power of 512 operations simultaneously. That’s more operations than there are atoms in the universe, by many orders of magnitude.

We’ve all seen how pervasive technology and computing have become in our lives. Many of us will have access to work emails at all times and it can sometimes feel like there is just too much information to process.

That’s where mindfulness comes in. It’s difficult to describe mindfulness but imagine training and developing your mind in the same way you train to develop your other muscles. Practicing mindfulness helps you to be “present” in a given moment and manage your thoughts.

To show how most of us struggle with that simple sounding task, take 20 seconds and try to clear your mind of all thoughts.

Didn’t work, did it? Thoughts about work or things you need to do will no doubt have popped into your head. You’ll also probably have found that the more you tried to clear your mind, the more those thoughts appeared. Mindfulness is aimed at helping you train your mind to acknowledge thoughts – but not dwell on them – and to allow you to focus on the task in hand.

My point this week is that many of us often feel like there are more operations going on in our head than there are atoms in the universe. That’s the price we pay for living in a connected society. All that being said, I’m comforted by the fact that, while some folk are striving to make technological advancements, others are striving to find methods which might help in alleviating the pressures on our minds.

This week’s Tash apparently – according to those in the know (i.e. not me!) – found quantum mechanics so counterintuitive that he thought the theories relating to it must either be wrong or incomplete. He also said this:

The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.

After trying to wrap my head around qubits and how to best find a quiet moment, I was glad to discover that even Albert Einstein struggled with comprehending the world around him.

Tash Friday 21:2:14

Have a great weekend folks!

What’s next?

p.s. If you’re interested, there’s a free app called Headspace which is aimed at helping users become more mindful. Part of the app is a ten-day programme called “Take Ten” where users take ten minutes out of their day for ten days in an effort to get a basic understanding of mindfulness. I enjoyed it.

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